To begin with, Krebs returns home fromWorld War I to a society that he no longer feels attached to. It can be assumedthat before the war Krebs worked within society since he is depicted in acollege photo along with his similarly-dressed fraternity brothers. When heenlists into the Marines though, life becomes simplistic; you eat, sleep, andfight. The problem arises when Krebs tries to return from a simplistic lifestyleof war, to a much more complicated domestic lifestyle. “Ironically, Krebsis disillusioned less by the war than by the normal peacetime world which thewar had made him to see too clearly to accept” (Burhans 190). Krebs seeksrefuge from this disillusion by withdrawing from society and engaging himself inindividual activities.
A typical day for Krebs consists of going to the libraryfor a book, which he would read until bored, practicing his clarinet, andshooting pool in the middle of the day; this is common for a Hemingwayprotagonist. Hemingway realizes “that with the disappearance of thetranscendent and the absolute from man’s consciousness, the universe becomesempty of meaning and purpose. . . ” (Burhans 284); a good basis for testing aprotagonist to see whether or not he’s heroic .
A more specific way that Krebswithdraws from society is his view of women and love. In a society full of talk,Krebs would have to engage in conversation and interaction in order to win awoman’s heart. Krebs did not want to go through all of that again. He found itmuch easier during the war to become intimate with a French or German girl,especially considering that there wasn’t as much “red tape” inEuropean relationships. It was just too complicated to adjust himself back to anAmerican relationship which he deemed full of consequences. In other works byHemingway, protagonists are “haunted by a sense of how simple it all wasonce, when he could take his Indian girl into the clean-smelling woods, stretchout beside her on the pine-needles (her brother standing guard), and rise to noobligations at all” (Fiedler 143).
Krebs is much the same way. Heexperienced this obligation-free relationship in Europe and was disgusted by thethought of returning to an obligated relationship in America. Hemingway himselflearned of obligations from four separate marriages; why should any of hisfictional characters escape this dreaded wrath. Another way that Krebs withdrawsfrom society is the loss of his faith. Before the war Krebs attended a Methodistcollege, which reinforces the idea that he was a man of faith. During the warthough, Krebs experiences a change in his beliefs.
It can only be imagined whatunholy things he had seen and done in the midst of battle. Once home, hedenounces existing in God’s Kingdom to his mother and refuses to pray. Hemingwayfelt that it is this “determination to be faithful to one’s own experience,not to fake emotions or pretend to sentiments that are not there” isbrought out in Krebs’ character (Howe 233). It is this tone, the importance ofone’s inner beliefs over anyone else’s, which pushes Hemingway’s protagonistaway from society.
So how does one become heroic after denouncing so much ofsociety? If alive today, Hemingway’s answer may very well be “grace underpressure. ” Customary in Hemingway’s literary works, such as Santiago in TheOld Man and the Sea, the protagonist is always fighting a losing battle. PhilipYoung, a well-known critic of Hemingway, says it best when he states that inlife “you lose, of course; what counts is how you conduct yourself whileyou are being destroyed” (Young 274). A Hemingway hero would take notice ofhis ill fate and make the best of it. The motive behind Hemingway’s heroicfigures is not glory, or fortune, or the righting of injustice, or the thirstfor experience.
They are inspired neither by vanity nor ambition nor a desire tobetter the world. They have no thoughts of reaching a state of higher grace orvirtue. Instead, their behavior is a reaction to the moral emptiness of theuniverse, an emptiness that they feel compelled to fill by their own specialefforts. (Gurko 229) In “Soldier’s Home”, Krebs realizes the problemsthat he faces; he no longer believes in society, particularly love and faith. Krebs heroic deed is displayed when he moves on with his life, rather thanbringing it to a screeching halt.
At one point, he denounces loving his ownmother. In order to satisfy his mother and avoid friction, Krebs holds back thenausea and lies, saying that he does love her. Krebs also announces his plans tomove out of town for a job; to get on with his life. No doubt, Krebs displays”grace under pressure.
” In the end, the protagonist from”Soldier’s Home”, Krebs, proves himself to be a typical product ofHemingway. Hemingway’s mold often required a character to be socially withdrawn,from women and faith, and to overcome these disillusions by becoming heroic. Krebs succeeded in this mold by engaging in non-sociable activities, ridiculingthe complexity of relationships with women, and denouncing his Methodist faith. To top it all off, Krebs can truly be seen as a Hemingway hero by demonstratinggrace under pressure. BibliographyBurhans, Clinton S. Jr.
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