Soldiers Home

.. n Also Rises, Brett Ashley speaks of her inner torment–“I don’t want to go through that hell again” (SAR 26)–in language that echoes Krebs’. Brett rebuffs Jake. Because of his impotence, Jake and Brett can never fully satisfy each other. “That hell again” suggests both their unconsummated love affair and their suffering from the hesitant and inconsequential encounters they have already experienced. Both Krebs and Brett decline to repeat such experiences. When we consider the intentionality behind Hemingway’s intertextuality, we realize that both characters share a deep wound.

In “Soldier’s Home,” Hemingway avoids any explicit description of what happened to Krebs during the war, especially in the matter of the love affair. Instead, Hemingway portrays Krebs’ postwar reaction to the town girls, and we note his condition and behavior, and infer a cause. Both the physical distance between Krebs and the girls and his role as onlooker give him a sense of security. While Krebs remains in a safety zone “on the front porch,” he is protected. The girls walk “on the other side of the street”; nothing can touch him (147-48).

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Like sophisticated Brett Ashley, these small-town Oklahoma girls celebrate a new era with short skirts and short hair. Krebs admires them, yet he protects himself from the danger of sexual involvement as if he were still suffering from a previous affair. He has to control himself. Only as an onlooker can he avoid the “complicated world”: But they [the girls] lived in such a complicated world of already defined alliances and shifting feuds that Krebs did not feel the energy or courage to break into it.(147) Ironically, Hemingway uses the terms “alliances” and “feuds,” words appropriate to conflicts between nations and families, to describe the girls’ complicated world. Moreover, he uses related terms to describe Krebs’ feelings towards that world: “He did not want to get into the intrigue and the politics” (147).

By emphasizing discord and friction, such terms suggest a conflict already experienced by Krebs, a conflict further revealed as follows: He did not want any consequences. He did not want any consequences ever again. He wanted to live along without consequences. Besides he did not really need a girl. (147) The repetition of “consequences” sounds too portentous for the previous problem to have been a merely casual love affair.

The discontinuity between Krebs’ prewar and postwar periods is obvious. Through the experience of battle, he seems to have lost his belief in God and the Kingdom which his mother claims. Krebs is isolated, having lost all feeling of belonging or togetherness. But he is attracted by the girls’ “patterns” which represent their identification with a group, an identification he once shared. Perhaps his is a bitter and only half-realized nostalgia.

Here is a veteran, a possibly heartbroken young man, who keeps himself away from the complex world, stays on the porches, and simply watches girls on the street. However, Krebs makes an exception for his young sister Helen. She is accepted in his realm. She extracts his pledge to be her “beau”(150). On a superficial level, she seems to be just another girl attempting to pull him into a complex world; however, in her innocence she intends no such thing.

An incestuous relationship between brother and sister is suggested in Hemingway’s later, posthumously published work “The Last Good Country” and its related manuscripts (NAS 70-132). But here, in “Soldier’s Home,” there is no hint of incest. The brother-sister relationship remains a simple form of love in “Soldier’s Home.”The young sister’s love for her brother is a mixture of respect and innocent affection. Her regard and love have a healing effect on Krebs. Although she is as talkative as her mother, Helen’s invitation is to a simple world. Moreover, Krebs, who has yet to exchange a word with the girls in the town, enjoys talking with his sister because there is no danger of being trapped in the complex man-woman world.

Krebs simply accepts her invitation, and goes to the schoolyard to see her pitch, as proof of their mutual love. Thus, “Soldier’s Home” is a sophisticated story of a variously wounded veteran’s return home. While “A Very Short Story” is a relatively explicit story of heartbreak, revealing biographical raw materials and the author’s anger, “Soldier’s Home” is a more refined and distanced treatment of Hemingway’s own experiences during and after the war. Later, these same experiences, more refined and distanced still, will find expression in perhaps the ultimate veteran’s story, “Big Two-Hearted River.” Bibliography Donaldson, Scott. “‘A Very Short Story’ As Therapy.” Hemingway’s Neglected Short Fiction: New Perspectives.

Ed. Susan F. Beegel. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1992. 99-105. Hemingway, Ernest. in our time.

Paris: three mountains press, 1924. —–. In Our Time. New York: Scribner’s, 1925. —–.

The Nick Adams Stories. New York: Scribner’s, 1972. —–. The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. 1938.

New York: Collier, 1987. —–. The Sun Also Rises. 1926. New York: Scribner’s, 1970. Kennedy, J.

Gerald and Kirk Curnutt.”Out of the Picture: Mrs. Krebs, Mother Stein, and ‘Soldier’s Home.'” The Hemingway Review 12.1 (Fall 1992): 1-11. Lamb, Robert Paul. “The Love Song of Harold Krebs: Form, Argument, and Meaning in Hemingway’s ‘Soldier’s Home.'” The Hemingway Review 14.2 (Spring 1995): 18-36. Scholes, Robert. Semiotics and Interpretation. New Haven: Yale UP, 1981.

Smith, Paul. A Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989. Villard, Henry Serrano and James Nagel. Hemingway in Love and War. Boston: Northeastern UP, 1989.

Donaldson, Scott. “‘A Very Short Story’ As Therapy.” Hemingway’s Neglected Short Fiction: New Perspectives. Ed. Susan F. Beegel. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1992. 99-105. Hemingway, Ernest.

in our time. Paris: three mountains press, 1924. —–. In Our Time. New York: Scribner’s, 1925. —–.

The Nick Adams Stories. New York: Scribner’s, 1972. —–. The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. 1938.

New York: Collier, 1987. —–. The Sun Also Rises. 1926. New York: Scribner’s, 1970. Kennedy, J.

Gerald and Kirk Curnutt.”Out of the Picture: Mrs. Krebs, Mother Stein, and ‘Soldier’s Home.'” The Hemingway Review 12.1 (Fall 1992): 1-11. Lamb, Robert Paul. “The Love Song of Harold Krebs: Form, Argument, and Meaning in Hemingway’s ‘Soldier’s Home.'” The Hemingway Review 14.2 (Spring 1995): 18-36. Scholes, Robert. Semiotics and Interpretation. New Haven: Yale UP, 1981.

Smith, Paul. A Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1989. Villard, Henry Serrano and James Nagel. Hemingway in Love and War. Boston: Northeastern UP, 1989.