How is Krebs an example of an antihero in "Soldier's Home"?
The term antihero is often used in terms of very unique type of figure. Typically the antihero is a character who lacks heroic qualities, but they might also be characters who bear all of the qualities of a traditional hero but are oriented toward an unworthy goal. Christopher Marlowe popularized the second type in his tragedies. Tamburlaine and Faustus, for instance, have tremendous ambition; they throw themselves into their endeavors wholeheartedly, and they stand apart from others. The antihero will stay committed even to the end and speak with a force that displays an intellectual and rhetorical superiority. The same is true of Milton's Satan, who offers an amazing display of epic heroic qualities in the first two books of Paradise Lost. In the Romantic period, Byron's Don Juan might fill that same role. These are appealing protagonists, but they are not exactly heroes in that they do not embrace the cultural values deemed appropriate.
Krebs, like many Modern protagonists, lacks the energy and strength of personality to match Marlowe's and Milton's antiheroes. His listlessness and lack of direction complicate his connection to the archetype. However, in the Modern tradition, the antihero will often appear as someone like Krebs, who has seen what society's embrace of war and ideals of masculinity offer and who has decided to reject them. He is willing to hurt his mother's feelings and to disengage from his former friends, increasingly isolating himself from the conventional world.
Throughout the story, the motif of not fitting in marks Krebs. He has come home from the war too late to experience the celebrations given to soldiers, and he has no interest in pursuing post-war America's quest for status and wealth and domestic life. Krebs has no capacity for post-War earnestness. In all these ways, he embodies a visual rejection of traditional heroism. In this way, he seems to have more in common with a Hamlet or Prufrock figure; Hamlet himself declares, "No, I am not Prince Hamlet nor was meant to be." Krebs similarly rejects these simplistic identities. Sadly for Krebs, as is again true of many Modern protagonists, it is easier to resist and reject than to find something to which one can be passionately committed, even if that commitment is foolish or tragic.