The central idea of this story shows that the experience of war changes a person so much that he may never be able to fit back into the life he had before - those who have not shared the same experience can never understand what it was like, and how it changes a person.
Harold Krebs returns from World War I to his mother's house in his old hometown. He finds that at first, people want him to talk about the war, but they have their own preconceived notions of what war is like which is nowhere near the reality he knows. Nevertheless, he finds himself trying to conform to their expectations, telling them what they want to hear, even though it is a lie. Harold finds himself out of touch with the people he grew up with, who have all grown up and live in "a complicated world of already defined alliances", and his relationship with his mother is the most difficult. Worried about his lethargy, she pushes for him to start doing things like go to church with her and get a job. Finally, when she asks if he loves her, he replies that he no longer loves at all, then lies, saying he didn't mean it so that she will feel better. Realizing that if he stays, his life will continue to be a series of falsehoods, Harold resolves to leave his old home and go to Kansas City, where he will attempt to start life anew.