In "The Soldier's Home," why can't Krebs pray, and how does his war experience connect to his inability to pray?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Harold Krebs comes home from the war, he is a far different person from the boy who went away to fight. We can only imagine the horrors he must have seen because his experiences have affected him deeply. He finds it difficult to hear those in his small hometown glorify the war, showing their lack of understanding of its real nature as Harold has known it. Harold has come home, but home is a place where he no longer belongs. He spends a great deal of time in his room, alone. He shows no interest in the pretty girls he observes, and he cannot think of his future.

Harold's parents continue to treat him as the boy he had been, desiring no knowledge of where he had been and what he had lived through during his absence. He tolerates their behavior. When he no longer can ignore his feelings, however, Harold's bitterness erupts in the dramatic confrontation with his mother.

Harold can't pray because he no longer accepts his mother's values, beliefs, or way of life. He can't pray because he feels totally alone, cut off from everything and everyone, including a divine power. Harold's inability to pray emphasizes his emotional and spiritual isolation, the direct result of having experienced war. After the confrontation with his mother, during which Harold lives a false life for a few moments to placate her, he knows he must leave home. He will go to Kansas City. He will still be alone there, because he will be alone everywhere from now on, but he will be free to live without pretense and hypocrisy.