What is the plot of "Soldier's Home"?

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"Soldier's Home" is the story of a young man returning from war and finding that, though the home hasn't changed, he has changed and needs to move on and find a new place to exist.

Harold Krebs returns home to Oklahoma after two years of serving overseas as...

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"Soldier's Home" is the story of a young man returning from war and finding that, though the home hasn't changed, he has changed and needs to move on and find a new place to exist.

Harold Krebs returns home to Oklahoma after two years of serving overseas as a Marine in World War One. He gets back well after the drafted men have returned and been celebrated, so he gets a less intense welcome and finds that the town is uninterested in hearing what actually happened during the war. This makes him feel isolated, and he decides that he doesn't want to talk about what happened under the circumstances—because he has to lie for anyone to listen.

Krebs doesn't feel like he has the energy to break into the various social groups in town. He wants to have a girlfriend but doesn't feel like he has the energy or drive to get one. The thought of courting and having to talk to them is overwhelming.

One morning at the breakfast table, his mother asks him whether he's decided what he wants to do now. She tells him there are no idle hands in God's kingdom. They argue, and he says that he doesn't love her. Her sadness immediately makes him take back what he said, and she asks him to pray with her. He says he can't but does allow her to pray for him.

Krebs decides that he'll go to Kansas City to get a job. He feels that his mother was sad, so he had to lie to her. He thinks that he just wants his life to go smoothly.

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Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” is a story in which very little, externally, happens. Krebs is a solder who returned from the first World War to his home in a small town in Oklahoma; there is nothing for him to do there, and no one with whom he can discuss his war experiences; he spends his time reading on his porch and watching girls. You could map out the structure of the plot this way:

Exposition: Krebs is a soldier who served in France and Germany.

Inciting incident: Krebs returns after two years’ absence to his home town in Oklahoma. The problem of the story is how Krebs no longer feels “at home” in his hometown.

Rising action: Krebs spends his days idling, reading on his porch, watching girls, and shooting pool.

Climax: His mother finally has a talk with him. The highest point of the action happens when his mother wants to know if he loves her, and he tells her, with brutal honesty, “No.”

Falling action: Krebs immediately regrets his candor; he tells her that he didn’t mean it, and things are smoothed over, with the tacit agreement that he will “find something.”

Resolution: Krebs decides to go to Kansas City and find work. He knows that he can’t stay in his hometown.

Denouement: He realizes that his hope for a life without complication or attachment is impossible.

The real plot of the story, however, is about Krebs' internal state. He is unable to come to terms with his experiences in the war, mostly because there is no one in his town (especially not his family) with whom he can figure out the truth of his feelings. Since he came home much later than other soldiers, he is not even an object of curiosity; he finds himself forced to lie about his experience in order to excite interest, but in doing so he loses whatever moral “value” he was able to derive from the war (“All of the times that had been able to make him feel cool and clear inside himself when he thought of them; the times so long back when he had done the one thing, the only thing for a man to do, easily and naturally, when he might have done something else, now lost their cool, valuable quality and then were lost themselves”). His solitude is absolute and he becomes, ultimately, completely hollow, unable to feel anything (he tells his mother he “doesn’t love anybody,” especially himself). There is a kind of desperate alienation in this final interview with his mother, who thinks of him as the son he was before the war, unaware the the person she is praying for is now a complete stranger.

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