How has the war changed Harold Krebs' attitudes toward work and women in the story "Soldier's Home"?

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sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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The war has primarily changed Krebs’ understanding of manhood as it had been before the war, which the narrator explains in the 4th paragraph of the story: “All of the time that had been able to make him feel cool and clear inside himself  . . .now lost their cool, valuable quality and then were lost themselves.” Fundamental to his problem, resulting from the war, is that he cannot communicate—to girls, to his parents, to anyone.  The war had been such a horrific experience for him that he returns without feeling, or maybe with so much feeling that words are inadequate to express any ideas that he has.  With words inadequate, and “normal” experience meaningless after all he had experienced during the war, he withdraws, succumbing to his mother’s desire for him to pray but realizing that, like everything else, is worthless.  Note the style of Hemingway’s writing here, which reflects the attitude of Kreb:  short sentences, little descriptors, plain language.  Hemingway often uses this minimalist style.  It developed out of his own experiences in the war, which caused him to distrust language, thinking the best way to say anything was to “undersay” it because words cannot always be trusted.  He associated this style with masculinity:  a man, according to Hemingway, should act rather than talk about acting, and if he cannot act, he should keep quiet about his feelings

dymatsuoka's profile pic

dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The war and his homecoming has taught Krebs to insulate himself from emotion, and that "he (does) not really need a girl.  He enjoys watching women, but does not have the energy to seek a relationship.  He "(does) not want to have to spend a long time getting (a girl)...He (does) not want to have to do any courting...he would not go through all the talking...he (does) not want one badly enough." 

This same lethargy extends to Krebs' attitude toward work.  His parents worry that he has lost his ambition.  Krebs thinks he might go to Kansas City to get a job, but only to please his mother.  As for himself, he finds himself immersed in a numb, isolated world which has little to do with the life to which he has returned.