When Harold Krebs returns from having experienced the horrors of World War I in the fields of France where many were slaughtered and gassed, he has "a distaste for everything." Krebs does not feel that he is ready for the complications of relationships with women or those of a job.
Having returned in 1919, long after many of the other soldiers have already received heroes' welcomes, Krebs finds that people have already heard "too many atrocity stories" to be interested in real tales. So he discovers that he is only listened to if he tells lies. But because of his lies, "a distaste for everything that had happened to him . . . set in." Also, Krebs acquires "the nausea regarding the experience that is the result of untruth or exaggeration." It is this repulsion that leads to his disinclination to have anything to do with women or "settling down to work," as his mother encourages him to do. Krebs avoids any relations with people so as to keep from being in a position to feel the need to exaggerate or fabricate the history of his experiences.
Krebs yearns for time alone to heal his soul. He wants to make sense of what has happened by reading his book on the history of the battles and studying the maps of towns and fields in which he has fought: "Now he was really learning about the war. He had been a good soldier. That made a difference." When Krebs can create some order, then he may be ready for the complications that are at home. But, now "It is not worth the trouble." The girls want to talk; however,
the world they were in was not the world he was in . . . It was not worth it. Not now when things were getting good again.
Since he has started to make some sense of his last few years—years of life-threatening experiences spent in foreign lands about which no one else in his family is acquainted—Krebs wants to continue his task without complications. He feels that he must leave: "He would go to Kansas City and get a job and [his mother] would feel all right about it." He does not want to have to lie about anything; he simply wants his life to "go smoothly."