soldiers homeHow would you state the theme of "The Soldier's Home"? What does the story reveal to you about the way war can affect a young soldier?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In agreement with post #2, Thomas Wolfe wrote "You can't go home again."  Any attempt at returning to what one once was causes ambiguity and inauthenticity. This, indeed, is Hemingway's theme of "The Soldier's Home."

The ambiguous title of the story signifies the uncertain nature of Harold Krebs's return to his hometown in Oklahoma.  At first glance, the reader may think the story takes place in a veteran's home instead of the personal home of a soldier. Uncertainty confronts Krebs upon his arrival:

At first Krebs, who had been at Belleau Wood, Soissons, the Champagne, St Mihiel and in the Argonne did not want to talk about the war at all.  Later he felt the need to talk but no one wanted to hear about it.  His town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities.  Krebs found that to be listened to al all he had to lie...and after this....a distaste for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told.

Because of his having to lie to be listened to, Krebs senses that "All of the times that had been able to make him feel...clear inside lost their cool, valuable quality and then were lost themselves."  Krebs feels an ambiguity about himself.  He wants a girl, but he does not

want to work to get her.  He would have liked to have a girl but he did not want to have to spend a long time getting her...He did not want to tell any more lies.  It wasn't worth it.....He did not want any consequences ever again.

Even relationships within his family become ambiguous.  When his sister asks him to watch her pitch at the school, she tells him that she tells the boys that Harold is her "beau."  And, his mother and father do not treat Harold as an adult.  Before the war, Harold was not allowed to drive the car, and even now the issue is uncertain as his mother tells him one morning,  "Your father ....thinks you should be allowed to drive the car....He asked me to speak to you this morning...."

When his mother becomes upset with Harold's curt reply to her other questions, she asks him if he does not love her and he regresses into calling her "mummy." In a way, his mother has reduced Harold to a wounded soldier recovering in a soldier's home.

Harold Krebs's return to his home becomes ambiguous because he does not feel "at home" after having been away to war. The soldier's home is no longer his home, for he is not what the family wants him to be.  He wants "his life to go smoothly" and he must leave in order to find the "cool and valuable quality" that comes when one creates one's own existence. 

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I guess the central irony of this story is the way that Krebs finds himself alienated from the very society and culture that he risked his life to protect. This story brilliantly presents us with a picture of how, having faced the horrors of war, soldiers like Krebs are unable to simply settle down in their lives as their parents and friends want them to. He wants to be free from consequences, responsibility and attachments and the complications that these things bring, and it is his desire to remain unattached that results in him living his life the way he does.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One theme of the story is that comes through clearly is that Harold has been changed forever by having gone to war. When he comes home, he is not the same young man who had gone away. Home is no longer home; it is an alien place where Harold no longer belongs. He is no longer like the people among whom he lives--even his own family. The major change in Harold seems to be that his new identity--soldier and survivor--has isolated him from others, creating a loneliness in him that had not been there before.