Introduction World War I was awar that took place between 1914 and 1918, led by the Allied forces (RussianEmpire, French Republic and United Kingdom) versus the Central Powers (Germanyand Austria-Hungary). It was triggered by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand,the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary.
It was the first war that hadstarted in Europe, but spread to and has included countries from all over theworld. The conflict was the result of the sudden technological and industrialadvances, such as the arms industry. Along with these advances came the rise ofnationalism, which eventually led to great tragedies and millions of deaths,both civilian and military. Everyone was affected by the events, regardless ofthe level of participation, whether it be the soldiers on the front, orfrightened mothers at home with children, just waiting for a possible bomb todrop on their house. Naturally, theworld of arts was also heavily impacted, and so, in regards to the rest of theperiod, there was a different mentality and perspective when it comes to warliterature.
A group of young authors who established themselves after the warhad ended called The Lost Generation came to the spotlight. The group consistedof James Joyce, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fidzgerald, Gertrude Stein and manyothers. They were lost in the excitement of the World War I, but wereeventually let down with its outcome. Ernest Hemingway was one of them.
Hemingway and war Hemingway iscredited to have been the greatest American authors of the 20th century, withattributed importance of his work in regards to understanding the problems ofwar and soldiers’ difficulties. He was not only the most active author, but hewas one of few who had actually lived through warfare and had experienced thetraumas they later wrote about. In his speech atthe centennial anniversary, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. gives himfull credit for shaping our perspective of the war – “The way we write about war or even think about war was affectedfundamentally by Hemingway.” (Henry Louis Gates). After turning 18in 1918, Hemingway applied to be a soldier, but was rejected because of hisproblems with vision, causing him to fail the vision test.
Nonetheless, heresponded to a Red Cross recruitment and joined the war as an ambulance driver,where he received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery for assisting Italiansoldiers to safety despite being severely wounded in fire. Hemingway, young ashe was, believed he was immortal: “When you go to war as aboy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; notyou…Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion andyou know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before mynineteenth birthday, I had a bad time until I figured out that nothing couldhappen to me that had not happened to all men before me.
Whatever I had to domen had always done. If they had done it then I could do it too and the bestthing was not to worry about it.” (Hemingway) Soldier’s Home “Soldier’s Home” is a short story he wrote a few years after returninghome from Italy and it has a sort of autobiographical context mixed in with thefiction. “Yet another straightforwardliterary incarnation of Hemingway himself.
” (Ruben De Baerdemaeke, 56).Thanks to its autobiographical content, it depicts the perfect picture of thefeelings soldiers have to cope with after experiencing the horrors of war. “Hemingway’s great warwork deals with aftermath. It deals with what happens to the soul in war andhow people deal with that afterward.
The problem that Hemingway set for himselfin stories like ‘Soldier’s Home’ is the difficulty of telling the truth aboutwhat one has been through. He knew about his own difficulty in doing that.”(Tobias Wolff atthe Hemingway centennial celebration) The story tellsthe tale of our protagonist Harold Krebs, a young man who joins the Marines andgoes from college in Kansas to the battle in Germany. Through Harold’scharacter, Hemingway depicted his own sentiments towards the experiences he hadlived through and the difficulties in regards of surviving its aftermath. Thestory takes place after Harold’s return home, where he realizes how empty hefeels and how there is no purpose in his life anymore after leaving combat.Just like the author, the protagonist lives with his parents, who can’t imaginewhat their son went through. He cannot speak to them because they would neverunderstand, nor does he know how to express himself well enough to help themunderstand. “Later he felt the need to talk but no one wanted tohear about it.
His town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled byactualities.” (Hemingway,86). The stories he wants to tell are not interesting to anyone and even ifsomeone starts listening, they quickly lose interest. The parallel is drawnhere – Hemingway faced the similar problem with his return home, the things hewanted to say, he couldn’t, as no one could understand. “For a time though, Hemingway questioned his role as a war hero, andwhen asked to tell of his experiences he often exaggerated to satisfy hisaudience.
” From the solebeginning of the story, we see a modernistic disillusion that is presentthrough the whole story. Hemingway starts the narration with a disappointingtone. He is looking at a picture of Krebs and a fellow corporal with two Germangirls on the river Rhine.
He explains that the girls on the photo are notbeautiful and that the river Rhine is does not even show. The disillusionmentcontinues as he realizes everyone was already over the celebration of soldiers’return home and that he is too late. “Hecame back much too late.
The men from the town who had been drafted had allbeen welcomed elaborately on their return. There had been a great deal of hysteria.Now the reaction had set in.” (Hemingway, 86) Being so young,Harold was defined by the action he had lived through during the war. He is asoldier and a soldier only, nothing more, nothing less.
After returning home,he feels lost, without value. Looking back at “the times so long back when he had done the one thing, the only thingfor a man to do, easily and naturally,” (Hemingway, 87) makes himdepressive, as since his return, there is nothing he can do. He spends his dayssleeping late, reading until bored and then going to the pool. The problem is heis not feeling anything anymore, he is numb. Harold came as a different person;the years he spent in Germany have changed him. He does not have any interestsbeside war, he does not want a girl, and he does not want to work. The onlyones who are interested in him and see him as a hero are his sisters and hismother.
However, his numbness comes to surface during the dialogues with hissister Helen and his mother at breakfast. Helen is really enthusiastic whenasking him if he’ll come to her baseball game, but he only answers with shortanswers, as if he didn’t care.”Do you love me?””Uh, huh.””Will you love me always?””Sure.
“”Will you come over and watchme play indoor?””Maybe.” (Hemingway, 91)Next comes the thedialogue with the mother, who somewhat realizes what is happening with him andwants only the best. The bluntness andanger of his character reaches the peek in this dialogue when Harold tells hismother he does not love her, that he does not love anyone. Our protagonistHarold is a sort of an antihero in this story. His unpleasant demeanour is tobe looked down upon, yet we still love him and cheer for him to find happiness.After his mother starts crying, he apologizes and tells he did not mean it,that he was just angry. However, the fact that Hemingway writes he was nauseousafter telling that implies he was in fact lying, because he got nauseous everytime he lied. After beinginjured, Hemingway had spent six months recovering in a Milan hospital, wherehe met a Red Cross nurse Agnes von Kurowsky.
He was supposed to marry Agnes,but soon enough he received her letter in which she states she engaged with anItalian officer. This event had a devastating effect on his love life and perspectiveon females. Eventually, that inspired him to write his most famous work “A Farewell to Arms.” He continuedhaving relationships, however, he would leave each woman before she would havea chance to do so to him (he had 4 wives). That perspective can be also seen inthe lines describing Harold’s view: “He liked the girls that werewalking along the other side of the street.
He liked the look of them muchbetter than the French girls or the German girls. But the world they were inwas not the world he was in. He would like to have one of them. But it was notworth it.
They were such a nice pattern. He liked the pattern. It was exciting.But he would not go through all the talking. He did not want one badly enough.
He liked to look at them all, though. It was not worth it.” (Hemingway, 89) Harold saw eachgirl the same as the other one, whether it be a French, German or Kansas girl.The repetition of the word “pattern” and the line “It’s not worth it” tells usabout the seriousness of his attitude, that he really means it. He is not justtrying to find an excuse for not approaching them. He was taught in the armyhow to live without a girl, but also that military men do not need to put in alot of work for women as they love soldiers and some girl will appear byherself.
“Besides he did not reallyneed a girl. The army had taught him that. It was all right to pose as thoughyou had to have a girl. Nearly everybody did that. But it wasn’t true. You didnot need a girl. That was the funny thing.” (Hemingway, 88) Style He is known forthe “iceberg structure” of writing.
“Indeed,while Hemingway’s “iceberg technique” inevitably created thematic complexity bysuggesting far more than it states, the surfaces of his prose have been justlycelebrated for their crystalline clarity and structural simplicity.” (Cohen,161) Hemingway himself said he is a minimalistic writer when it comes to syntaxand can write a whole story with only 6 words. The reason why it is possible ishis ability to imply things. He wants the reader to feel the point andexperience the story, not to simply read the plot.
The author focuses on vaguedialogues and small plot details as the main source of information, leaving itto the reader’s imagination to understand his implications. The anticlimacticending perfectly demonstrates that point. After the fight with his mother comesthe prayer and ends with mentioning a normal baseball game, giving the ending apurpose of demonstrating Harold’s flat character, but also implying that hefinds a job and leads a normal life eventually. The title of thestory, “Soldier’s Home” can have two meanings;the first one describes the home where he lives and the situation after hisarrival. The second meaning is the “soldier is home”, describing the arrival ofthe soldier, putting the emphasis on the fact that the soldier is the one whoreturned home and not the student that went into war because that person doesnot exist anymore, just like pre-war Hemingway ceased to exist. Conclusion In conclusion, warhad obviously had a huge effect on Hemingway. He comes to the realization ofhis own mortality, and everyone else’s too.
Death is inevitable and it is theonly certain thing to happen to everyone, sooner or later. That is why he triedto make people understand the troubles soldiers are going through, so somebodycould help them and cure the depression he too faced with, that eventually wasthe cause of him taking his own life.