Student Question

In "Soldier's Home," why won't Krebs discuss his battles with those at home?

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Hemingway centers many of his stories novels around his personal experiences, especially those from WWI where he was wounded an ambulance driver.  He is one of the authors named "The Lost Generation." He could not cope with post-war America, and therefore he introduced a new type of character who struggles with, among other things, his surrounding post-war environment. In “Soldier’s Home,” Krebs' town does not understand the nature of war and continues to be preoccupied by things that no longer have meaning for him, because he does understand war--so thoroughly that he cannot speak about it for war is by nature “unspeakable.” This causes him to develop an attitude of “nada,” meaning “nothing.” For Hemingway, this attitude is an authentic reaction to the horror of war, and a true man recognizes this.  He also knows that to be a man he must be honest; he must not lie. Recognizing “That was all a lie,” Krebs tries to extricate himself from everything to at least be honest.  At the end, however, he succumbs to his mother, who makes him pray, and in praying, lie.  As a result, he fails as a “Hemingway hero.”  Weakening to the pressures of a woman, he loses his manhood, which he was holding onto only tenuously throughout the story. To the extent he does not lie, does not talk about the war, he maintains his integrity and manhood.

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Krebs finds that the people at home have a very different perception of war than what it was really like - "his town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by the actualities...Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie".  Used to fantastic accounts of horrendous incidents, such as "German women found chained to machine guns in the Argonne", the people "are not thrilled by (Krebs') stories", which would have had much to do with the mundane, everyday life of a soldier as well.  Krebs, tired of pretending, ceases talking about the battles to those at home.

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