How can I compare and contrast Ernest Hemingway's "Soldier's Home" to its film adaption directed by Robert Young?

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mercut1469 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Young's film adaptation of Hemingway's short story "Soldier's Home" portrays its essence without duplicating it exactly. The setting is a small Oklahoma town and Young depicts the time and the setting adequately. The tone of the film is somber and detached just as Hemingway's writing is. While emotions are expressed, Krebs seems fittingly oblivious. Hemingway's statement in the story that Krebs simply wanted to live an uncomplicated life is illustrated by the actor's ability to remain almost deadpan throughout the film.

Only once, in a scene not in the story, does he divert from this emotionless state. At a dance he tries to make out with a girl who, while teasing him, doesn't want to go that far. The scene, however, is implied in the story when Krebs admits he would like to be with a girl but doesn't want to engage in the level of social conventions it would take. By immediately kissing the girl he displays his character's impatience with social norms.

Other than the aforementioned scene, the plot of the film follows Hemingway's story quite well. It even includes the photographs described in the opening lines of the story. The first scene of the film shows a smiling Krebs posing for a picture with his college fraternity. When Krebs returns from the war, he rarely smiles. He is also carrying the photograph taken with two German girls, which seems to be his only memento from the war.

Krebs checks out books about the war just as in the story. He is interested in sorting out the details of what he went through. When queried about the war he is mostly silent. The film never portrays the lies about the war which Hemingway includes in the story. Instead, the film adds another character, Kenner, who is a wounded veteran who seems outwardly as lost as Krebs. He is almost like Krebs's alter ego. He drinks and carouses to forget. The two go to a dance which is not part of the story and end up disagreeing about their feelings for the war. It is emblematic of Krebs's desire to live an uncomplicated life. Kenner's life is anything but uncomplicated as he seems to be dealing with the war in a negative way.

Finally, Young depicts the final scene with Krebs and his mother almost exactly. In this scene Krebs reveals that he neither loves his mother nor will he pray with her. The actor's performance replicates Krebs's feelings in this scene. Hemingway writes just after Krebs tells his mother he doesn't love her,

It wasn't any good. He couldn't tell her, he couldn't make her see it. It was silly to have said it. He had only hurt her. He went over and took her by the arm. She was crying with her head in her hands.

The mother is right from the book. She displays both optimism and religious devotion. She doesn't understand Harold. His father too is similar. Unlike in the story, he actually appears in a short scene. He is typically American with impatience regarding anything but business concerns. For some reason the sister's name is changed from Helen to Margaret and the scene where she says Harold is her "beau" is totally left out. Overall, the characterizations seem loyal to the written word, especially those of Harold and the mother, who are the main characters. The added characters, Kenner and Roselle Simmons, are important because they help visually reveal Harold's feelings.

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Soldier's Home

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