How does "Soldier's Home" demonstrate minimalism?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hemingway is known for his concise, blunt diction; so "Soldier's Home" easily fits into the minimalist category.  The opening sentence of the story,

"Krebs went to the war from a Methodist college in Kansas"

sets the tone and style of the story.  Hemingway employs very few transitions between his sentences and paragraphs, and he chooses simple, forceful syntax rather than flowery, complex structure.  This style precisely fits the subject of the story by presenting the stream of thoughts running through Krebs' head (stream-of-consciousness technique), because humans do not naturally think in complicated syntax or perfect transitions.

In addition to the language of the story, its repetition also represents minimalism.  Many minimalist artists rely on repetition of imagery, theme, etc.  Hemingway does the same.  In parts of the story, especially when Krebs considers his feelings about girls, almost the exact same phrases are used repeatedly by the author--again to show that Krebs' shellshock condition manifests itself in an inability to focus and be decisive.

Finally, the character of Krebs himself and his mother are minimalistic.  The reader does not know much about Krebs, especially which of his thoughts about the war and his family are reality.  Likewise, Krebs' mother is static and repetitive.  The conversation between the veteran and his mother is stilted and full of implications about what Krebs did overseas and what his mother thinks he did over there and about what is important to Krebs and the minor issues upon which his mother dwells.

While minimalist literature is not for everyone, Hemingway's use of it in "Soldier's Home" is effective in portraying the flat afect of someone who has endured trauma or combat and who is trying to return to who he was before.