Garland's story is both realistic and romantic. It is realistic in not glorifying or turning away from the fate of poor farmers returning from the Civil War. They have been injured and worn out by the war. They are thin and hungry, and nobody is there to greet them or cheer them on at the train station. As the narrator notes:
Three of them were gaunt and brown, the fourth was gaunt and pale, with signs of fever and ague upon him. One had a great scar down his temple; one limped; and they all had unnaturally large bright eyes, showing emaciation. There were no bands greeting them at the stations, no banks of gaily dressed ladies waving hand-kerchiefs and shouting "Bravo!" as they came in on the caboose of a freight tram into the towns that had cheered and blared at them on their way to war.
They are treated differently, the narrator notes, from generals and colonels. Private Smith, especially, is filled with worries, so that the sweetness of coming home is "mingled the bitter juice of...
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