Project #47010 - Critical Response Essay

 

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Critical essay/article Record: 1 Title: `Soldier's Home' revisited: A Hemingway Mea Culpa. Language: English Authors: Kobler, J.F. Source: Studies in Short Fiction; Summer93, Vol. 30 Issue 3, p377, 9p Document Type: Literary Criticism Publication Information: Newberry College Subject Terms: HEMINGWAY, Ernest, 1899-1961 Abstract: Explores the reasons behind Ernest Hemingway's creation of protagonist Harold Krebs in place of Nick Adams in Soldier's Home, one of his 1924 chronology of six stories. Author's differing reading of the story; One certain thing about Hemingway's attitude toward Soldier' Home; Circumstance of Hemingway's life in 1924; Krebs as a good Marine; Hemingway's creation of a false image of himself as a war hero. Document Information: Essay last updated: 20020625 Lexile: 1230 Full Text Word Count: 4220 ISSN: 00393789 Accession Number: 9312062842 Persistent link to this record (Permalink): http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=9312062842&site=lrc-live Cut and Paste: `Soldier's Home' revisited: A Hemingway Mea Culpa. Database: Literary Reference Center In 1924, Ernest Hemingway wrote six stories about Nick Adams and one about Harold Krebs. These Nick stories make up the heart of the Adams chronology, ranging from early childhood in "Indian Camp" and "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," through adolescence in "The End of Something" and "The Three-Day Blow" up to the returned veteran in "Big Two-Hearted River," and culminating with the married Nick, whose wife is pregnant in "Cross Country Snow." At no other time in his career did Hemingway immerse himself so completely in the creation of Nick Adams. While taking himself through an 11-month journey with Nick, Hemingway for some reason digressed into his only fictional visit to Oklahoma, to which Harold Krebs of "Soldier's Home" has returned after serving in the Marines in France and Germany during and immediately after World War I. The primary purpose of this essay is to try to determine why for this one story Hemingway set Nick aside and created Krebs. In order to make this determination, I must develop a reading of "Soldier's Home" that is greatly different from (and, I believe, more defensible than) those previous critics have set forth. Looking at "Soldier's Home" within the context of the six Nick stories and within the context of Hemingway's personal life and emotions in 1924 creates a different framework for a reading of what occurs within the text of the story. This new reading of the story is based largely on an evaluation of Harold Krebs's role in the Marines that, so far as I can discover, differs from any made before.[1] One thing is certain about Hemingway's attitude toward "Soldier's Home": he did not see it as inferior to the Nick stories. On 15 August 1924, Hemingway told Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas that he had just finished writing a long fishing story in which everything was "made up" (Baker, Selected Letters 122). On 10 December of that same year, Hemingway wrote to Robert McAlmon that he had just finished "the best short story I ever wrote" (Baker, Selected Letters 139). The first of these stories is "Big Two-Hearted River"; the second is "Soldier's Home." Certainly, critical opinion during the last 69 years has tended to view the story about Nick's going fishing as superior to the one about Harold's coming home. Both stories concern the same general subject: the returned veteran, even if Nick's military experience is not mentioned. But, then, neither is Harold's. If we view Hemingway's own judgment about "Soldier's Home" more in terms of the psychic relief the writing brought to the author and less in comparative aesthetic terms, perhaps we can understand why the author was so enthusiastic about that story. I will argue here that Hemingway may very well have produced for himself in writing "Soldier's Home" something similar to the psychic control that the author created for Nick on his fishing trip in northern Michigan. "Soldier's Home" is the author's carefully constructed mea culpa for the lies he had told and for the truths he had allowed the press to distort regarding his own role, duties, and injury on the Italian front in 1918.[2] Hemingway was as careful to avoid an open confession in writing Krebs's story as he was to avoid an account of Nick's reason for needing to go fishing. Two major questions I hope to answer are these: Why did this hidden apology for the lies and distortions come in 1924, almost six years after Hemingway's own return home to Oak Park? Why does the mea culpa take the form of Harold Krebs's story rather than that of a Nick story? A partial answer to the first of those two questions lies in the circumstances of Hemingway's life in 1924. The six Nick stories and the one Harold story were written during a year in which Hemingway was having to adjust to the major change in his life and plans brought about by the birth of his first son: "experimenting with living with a baby" he wrote to Ezra Pound on 17 March. "Baby hollers etc. Have tried to write but couldn't bring it off" (Baker, Selected Letters 112). This was not a baby that Hemingway welcomed; Bumby was causing serious changes in the Hemingway life style. "Cross Country Snow" shows Nick worrying before his child's birth about the very sort of restrictions on his life style that were already occurring for the author. Hemingway also complained to Pound about Ford Madox Ford's never recovering "in a literary way" from the miracle of "having been a soldier," and said that he (Hemingway) was "going to start denying I was in the war for fear I will get like Ford to myself about it" (Baker, Selected Letters 113). Hemingway never denied that he was in the war, but "Soldier's Home" in my reading denies that Krebs was actually in the war as a fighting Marine. Hemingway's apology to himself for his exaggeration of his role in that war lies buried in his creation of ex-Marine Harold Krebs, who, like Hemingway, did not actually do any fighting. If writing "Soldier's Home" provided relief to Hemingway's conscience for what he knew were distortions of his military experience, then writing "Big Two-Hearted River" encouraged Hemingway to believe that he really might be able to exercise some control over a life that was not going exactly the way he wanted it to go. Despite the direct assertion in "Soldier's Home" that "Krebs acquired the nausea in regard to experience that is the result of untruth or exaggeration," I can find no critical reading of the story that seriously questions Krebs's having been a good, fighting Marine. The most important key within "Soldier's Home" itself that Krebs did not fight bravely in the war lies in the recognition that the story is presented from two distinct narrative points of view. An objective narrator of the first three paragraphs stands outside Krebs's consciousness, but as the fourth paragraph develops, the narration moves into free indirect discourse that comes through Krebs's mind.[3] The objectivity of the opening paragraphs is established by the matter-of-fact description of two group photographs in which Krebs appears. One shows Krebs with his fraternity brothers in college, and the second is of Krebs, another Marine, and two girls in Germany. In effect, Krebs poses twice as a soldier, once in the actual photo and then in front of his parents and townsfolk. The second pose enjoys the support of no textual evidence resembling that of a photograph. In fact, Krebs admits to himself that he has lied in public about his military experiences, but he cannot stop lying to himself about the real extent and the psychological effect of his lying. Krebs is truly much more comfortable, much closer to home, in the picture with his fraternity brothers at the Methodist college than he is in his military photograph in a too tight uniform. The Rhine that does not show in the military photograph is the counterpart of the true Krebs, who is not actually visible in the college picture, but is as surely there as is the Rhine in the other. Krebs knows in his heart that he made a better fraternity brother than he did a Marine, but he must pose otherwise. Hemingway uses the common stylistic construction of the expletive to introduce both photographs: "There is a picture" (145). Where these two pictures reside is not said; they merely exist, so the reader must imagine where they are. I imagine that the college picture is on prominent display in the Krebs's house; can anyone imagine that the German photo is displayed anywhere? It is as deeply buffed in Harold's own possession as are his true feelings about his military experience. The third paragraph of the story provides a word snapshot of how Krebs's hometown welcomed back troops who had arrived earlier than Krebs. A word-picture is by implication not as objective as a photograph, but Hemingway's use of the same "There" construction suggests a continuing degree of objectivity. The reader cannot be at all sure who is characterizing the town's reaction as "hysteric": it cannot be Krebs, because he was not there; surely ordinary citizens would not categorize their welcoming home of the "boys" as hysteric. If the narrator is responsible for the valuative "hysteric," then that narrator has become less objective than in the flat, non-valuative, but ironic, descriptions of the photographs. The paragraph stands in a stylistic no-man's land between objective photographs and Krebs's slowly emerging consciousness. By the second sentence of the fourth paragraph, the story clearly has taken up residence in indirect discourse from and through Krebs's awareness: "Later he felt the need to talk but no one wanted to hear about it" (145). This arrival at a new and permanent point of view means that the crucial first sentence of the fourth paragraph marks the point of departure for the objective narrator: "At first Krebs, who had been at Belleau Wood, Soissons, the Champagne, St. Mihiel and in the Argonne[,] did not want to talk about the war at all." Can we determine that at some precise point in this sentence the narrator's objective voice ceases and Krebs's defensive one begins? I believe that the change occurs precisely with the second "at" of the sentence. The narrator puts Krebs "at" those five military engagements and Krebs simultaneously admits in his own mind that he was only "at" those battles. For "Soldier's Home" this "at" may be just as important to a reading of Krebs's military experiences as is the same carefully chosen word to an interpretation of motives in the more-often-examined passage about how "Mrs. Macomber, in the car, had shot at the buffalo" [my emphasis]. Both the narrator of "Soldier's Home" (and therefore Hemingway) and Krebs know that this Marine was merely "at" those five engagements, that he was not "in" them, but only near them, perhaps in much the same way that Frederic Henry and Ernest Hemingway himself were only "at" the battles in Italy in which each was "accidentally" wounded. Neither was a "real" soldier engaged in combat at the time; nor was Krebs, who apparently has not even "benefitted" from the suffering of an accidental wound. A close reading of "Soldier's Home" after the fourth paragraph reveals no description of Krebs's being in combat. One of the major sentences often cited by critics as evidence of Krebs's role in the war is a masterful piece of ambiguity that suggests much more than it actually says. Had a current political term been available to Hemingway in 1924, he might have admitted to exercising "spin control" on Krebs's behalf.[4] Here is the sentence that has been quoted numerous times to support a reading of Krebs as a fighting Marine: All of the times that had been able to make him feel cool and clear inside himself when he thought of them; the times so long back when he had done the one thing, the only thing for a man to do, easily and naturally, when he might have done something else, now lost their cool, valuable quality and then were lost themselves. (145-46) Is this the way a young man would remember specific acts of military prowess or bravery? If this story is completely lacking in details about Krebs's military performance, why have so many readers over so many years believed that Krebs really was a fighting Marine? Hemingway has employed at least two "tricks" to make readers feel more positively about Krebs than they should. One way that Hemingway accomplishes the seduction of his readers is to make Krebs's mother such a focus of hypocrisy and religiosity that Krebs cannot help but look good in contrast. Hemingway also gains considerable blind favor for Krebs among historically knowledgeable readers by simply calling him a Marine and listing those five battles of 1918. Although I cannot contend that saying "Belleau Wood" or "the Argonne" would have much effect on youthful college students today, I am talking here about the reactions of mature, serious readers--Hemingway critics. Their reader responses are different from a contemporary college sophomore's response, and I believe that over the years these critics have reacted positively to Krebs's supposed military record (despite the lack of any supporting evidence) because they have heard of those five battles--and they have read A Farewell to Arms. They know and support what Frederic Henry says about abstract words such as "glory, honor, courage, or hallow" being "obscene beside the concrete names of villages" (196). Simply by linking Krebs to those: named battles, Hemingway causes vicarious bravery, honor, courage to rub off on his character, at least for a certain class of well-informed readers. Two pieces of external evidence support the contention that the fictional Krebs could not reasonably have fought in any of those five real battles. First, recall that the Krebs of the Rhine photograph is still only a corporal. Histories of the Marine Corps tell about how the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments, of which Krebs would have had to have been a part, suffered tremendous casualties, 50 percent at Soissons alone. Other enlisted men who fought gallantly received battlefield promotions. Some are named in these histories (Heinl 206). Before the battle at St. Mihiel, 12 to 16 September 1918, the Marine 4th brigade was 2,500 men under strength (Heinl 211). But Harold Krebs expects the citizens of his hometown to believe that he fought in these five battles, doing "the only thing for a man to do, easily and naturally," escaped injury and still remained a corporal. Second, the imaginative seed of Harold Krebs (non-combatant) may be found in Hemingway's portrayal of an unnamed corporal in Chapter I of in our time, published in the spring of 1924, the same year Hemingway wrote "Soldier's Home." In that "miniature," Hemingway's first person narrator describes how the "whole battery was drank" on the way to the Champagne. The narrator is being regularly admonished by the adjutant because his kitchen fire "will be observed," even though they are "fifty kilometers from the front." This brief tale of the narrator's military "exploits" concludes with the sentence, "That was when I was a kitchen corporal" (89). What are the deep-seated psychic connections between that unnamed kitchen corporal and Harold Krebs, who is too large for his uniform, and Ernest Hemingway, who was wounded while handing out candy to Italian troops? The connections are so close and Hemingway's personal need to "make it up" to himself for the distortions of his Italian experience was so strong that he wrote Krebs's story as his confession. Just as he buffed so many other facts in stories and novels, inviting the reader to look beneath the mere one-eighth of the iceberg that is above the surface, so in Krebs's story Hemingway buffed his own confession about his own distortions of his military record. But why in 1924? As I have said earlier, his personal life was not as exciting as it had been earlier in his first marriage. The tremendous output of fiction itself provides evidence that in 1924 Hemingway was, in his customary way, writing as his means of getting things out of his mind, of compensating for present pains. In addition to the baby and strains in his relationship with Hadley, Hemingway's parents had refused even to open the box containing six copies of in our time. Is there any wonder he wrote "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" or "Cross Country Snow"? The emotional roots of "Soldier's Home" may have started growing in the past, but the pain they were causing in 1924 was no less real than that produced by an unwanted baby and familial rejection. Perhaps another reason why 1924 was the year of confession lies in the fact that it may mark the time when Hemingway began to exist as a public figure. Kenneth Lynn argues that Hemingway's running with the bulls of Pamplona in the summer of 1924 created "the take-off point of the general public's awareness of Hemingway the man." Lynn defends his assertion that Hemingway's public fame did not arise until 1924 by citing newspaper accounts from 1919 about Hemingway's taking "more punishment than any other man who had fought the Central Powers," and of being "the worst shot-up man in the U.S." (262). It is Lynn's contention that, despite this earlier attention to Hemingway's alleged war exploits, his real public personality did not begin to take shape until 1924. Although Lynn is using this information only to demonstrate what he takes to be the beginning of Hemingway's public fame, the psychological connection between Hemingway's "bravado" in Pamplona and the earlier press accounts of his assumed heroism suggests the very continuity of personal experience and psychic anguish that makes up a primary thesis of Lynn's biography. The extreme acts of bravery (or foolhardiness) in which Hemingway indulged in Pamplona in July 1924 may well have been designed to compensate for the bravery he did not get to demonstrate in the war, and "Soldier's Home" may equally well be the author's subtle apology for the lies he told and the untruths he fostered in 1919, parading around Oak Park in his well-fitting officer's uniform, carrying his cane and wearing his Italian cape. Was Hemingway punishing himself when he put Krebs into that ill-fitting uniform? The reasons why Hemingway gave his fictional confession to Harold Krebs rather than to Nick Adams are complex, but not necessarily for some of those critics who believe in a single, unified, continuous, self-consistent character named Nick Adams. For them an answer comes easily. As Joseph Flora says, Hemingway could not have written this as a Nick story because "Nick would not surrender to his mother as Krebs did to his" (44). In contrast to Flora, Carlos Baker says that "Soldier's Home" might have had Nick as its central character (Hemingway 130). This essay takes exception to both positions. For readers who do not believe that Hemingway intended to create or succeeded in creating a homogeneous Nick, an answer is much harder to find. I cannot believe that Hemingway moved the story out of the Adams family and into another family just to protect his own mother. Would an author with such a concern have published "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife"? Nor can I believe that he moved it to protect the image of either an existing or a potential Nick Adams, war hero. Nick is not a war hero, any more than are Frederic Henry or Jake Barnes, who was, after all, wounded while flying on the "joke front." Hemingway, to be very frank, did not produce any war heroes as surrogates for the author, at least before Robert Jordan. All the stories about a wounded Nick Adams were written after "Soldier's Home," except for Chapter 6 of in our time. The Nick of "Big Two-Hearted River" gives no evidence of being physically wounded, and the reader learns nothing about the nature of his war experience. If I cannot in good conscience argue that Hemingway created Krebs and put him in Oklahoma to protect in some way either the author's own mother and their tenuous relationship or his character Nick Adams, then I will have to argue that Hemingway's setting of this story in Oklahoma and the creating of Krebs were designed to protect the author himself. Hemingway did, indeed, feel the need, some five years after creating a false image of himself as a war hero, to soothe his own conscience. The relative unhappiness of his personal life in 1924 was instrumental in causing him to produce a fictional account destroying in effect the falsely achieved happiness of 1919. A minor reason for the change from Adams to Krebs may be that Hemingway felt the need for Krebs's sisters as integral parts of the story. Nick never has any visible siblings, a fact that makes him actually less autobiographically close to Hemingway than is Harold. Surely even more important was the fact, as Lynn says, that Hemingway could see himself moving into the public realm that year. In doing so, he could not risk tainting that public image by associating even this deeply buried confession too closely with the diverse but essentially positive Nick Adams image, created largely in the same year. Even if readers were not yet beginning to see autobiographical connections between Hemingway and a sympathetic boy like the Nick of that period, surely Hemingway himself was aware of the generalities of the character he was creating in Nick. Perhaps most directly he would have seen major incompatabilities between the Nick of "Big Two-Hearted River" and the character he was creating in "Soldier's Home." Hemingway seems to have created two different sides of his personality in creating that Nick and Harold Krebs. Thus Hemingway not only camouflaged his confession by giving it to Krebs in Oklahoma instead of Nick in Michigan; he also sank that confession under an ocean of words so beautifully ambiguous that readers could listen to a confession and never know they had done so. Hemingway seems to have achieved the immediate psychic relief he needed without doing any damage to his burgeoning public reputation. Hemingway did not need to make his own mother look bad by creating Mrs. Krebs nearly so much as he needed to assuage his own conscience by getting this deeply hidden mea culpa into fiction. Can we really blame the author for believing that the dignity of movement of a short story may be attributed to the seven-eighths of it that lies beneath the surface? It is, after all, the reader's duty to keep his critical eye so carefully on the one-eighth that lies above the surface that he will not founder on the seven-eighths he cannot see. 1 Richard B. Hovey's comments on Krebs are typical in their assumptions about his wartime activities. After describing how Nick Adams has been close to death, Hovey says that "the protagonist of 'Soldier's Home' is a similarly nerve-racked veteran. Back in his home town, Krebs encounters exactly what the sleepless lieutenant anticipated. He is restless, isolated, and cannot tell anyone what he has been through" (8). One of the most enthusiastic endorsements of Krebs is especially worth citing because it comes in an essay that argues not for Hemingway's psychological need to make up for the lies he told (or let accumulate) about his wartime exploits, but rather for his need to "exorcise his fears" caused by his injury. Lawrence Broer (11, 32) writes that Hemingway never mentions "the scenes of dying and mutilation and emotional confusion that have worn indelibly on Krebs' mind," but rather causes the alert reader to "recognize that for Krebs the war has been a shattering experience and that he has been emotionally disabled by what he has seen." Other critics tacitly assume Krebs's experiences, as Sheldon Norman Grebstein does in speaking of "the excitement of combat" that Krebs experienced (14). Scott Donaldson appears to believe that Krebs has had real fighting experiences, writing that "He'd like to talk about the war, but no one wants to hear how it really was" (224). 2 This reading of "Soldier's Home" does not question Philip Young's argument for the major influence of Hemingway's 1918 injury upon his fiction, but argues that the public and personal distortions of the circumstances of that injury, at least for a period in 1924, also bothered Hemingway sufficiently to cause him to fictionalize his emotions. Since Krebs was not wounded, Young had no reason to discuss "Soldier's Home" in his book. 3 Grebstein also sees a change in the narrative point of view in this story, but his analysis places "an editorializing and even occasionally didactic narrator" as present in at least the sixth paragraph of the story. He says that the story "changes to limited omniscience and dramatic scene," but he does not account for where this change occurs (81). 4 "Spin control" may not be greatly different from what Gerry Brenner calls Hemingway's "penchant for doubleness." Although Brenner does not discuss "Soldier's Home," he has certainly demonstrated through analysis of other texts that notions "of his [Hemingway's] craftiness, his artistic duplicity" can no longer be seen as merely "perverse, or as proof of over-exercised ingenuity" (12). WORKS CITED Baker, Carlos, ed. Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961. New York: Scribner's, 1981. -----. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1963. Brenner, Gerry. Concealments in Hemingway's Works. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1983. Broer, Lawrence. "Soldier's Home." Lost Generation Journal 3 (Spring-Summer 1975): 11, 32. Donaldson, Scott. By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Viking, 1977. Flora, Joseph M. Hemingway's Nick Adams. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1982. Grebstein, Sheldon Norman. Hemingway's Craft. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1973. Heinl, Robert Debs, Jr. Soldiers of the Sea: The United States Marine Corps, 1775-1962. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1962. Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Modern Library, 1932. -----. The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Scribner's, 1953. Lynn, Kenneth S. Hemingway. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1988. Young, Philip. Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1966. ~~~~~~~~ By J. F. Kobler Copyright of this work is the property of Newberry College and its content may not be copied without the copyright holder's express written permission except for the print or download capabilities of the retrieval software used for access. This content is intended solely for the use of the individual user. Accession Number: 9312062842 Critical article/essay 2 Record: 1 Title: "Soldier's Home": Another Story of a Broken Heart. Language: English Authors: Tateo Imamura (1), AUTHOR Source: Hemingway Review; Fall96, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p102-107, 6p Document Type: Literary Criticism Publication Information: Hemingway Society Subject Terms: SOLDIER'S Home (Short story) HEMINGWAY, Ernest, 1899-1961 SHORT story (Literary form) CRITICISM Abstract: Presents a critique of Ernest Hemingway's fiction "Soldier's Home." Focus on the character Harold Krebs; Krebs' relationships with women. Document Information: Essay last updated: 20020627 Author Affiliations: 1 Tokyo Women's Christian University Lexile: 980 Full Text Word Count: 2103 ISSN: 02763362 Accession Number: 9612173499 Persistent link to this record (Permalink): http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=9612173499&site=lrc-live Cut and Paste: "Soldier's Home": Another Story of a Broken Heart. Database: Literary Reference Center He knew he could never get through it all again. "Soldier's Home" "I don't want to go through that hell again." The Sun Also Rises In the works of Ernest Hemingway, that which is excluded is often as significant as that which is included; a hint is often as important and thought-provoking as an explicit statement. This is why we read and reread him. "Soldier's Home"is a prime example of this art of echo and indirection. Harold Krebs, the protagonist of "Soldier's Home," is a young veteran portrayed as suffering from an inability to readjust to society--Paul Smith has summarized previous critics on the subject of how Krebs suffers from returning to the familial, social, and religious"home"(71). Moreover, as Robert Paul Lamb notes, the story is also about "a conflicted mother-son relationship"(29). Krebs' small-town mother cannot comprehend her son's struggles and sufferings caused by the war. She devotes herself to her religion and never questions her own values; she manipulates her son. She is one of the Hemingway "bitch mothers" who also appear in "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" and "Now I Lay Me." Her sermons to her son lack any power to heal his spiritual wounds. She has determined that Krebs should live in God's "Kingdom," find a job, and get married like a normal local boy (SS 151). Although Hemingway locates the story in Oklahoma and excludes it from the Nick Adams group, the husband and wife relationship observed in"Soldier's Home"is also similar to those in "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife" and "Now I Lay Me," revealing the mother's dominance of a troubled marriage. Krebs' noncommittal father is obviously dominated by his wife; she makes the decisions. Her advocacy of marriage for Krebs is ironic: not yet recovered from his various psychic wounds and trapped by the sick marriage of his parents, marriage is the very commitment he must avoid. Furthermore, a careful reading of "Soldier's Home" reveals yet another story discernible beneath the main one. Krebs' indifference towards the girls in the town seems to reflect his disillusionment not only with the war and his parents' marriage, but also with another experience--Krebs' breaking up with a lover: Now he would have liked a girl if she had come to him and not wanted to talk. But here at home it was all too complicated. He knew he could never get through it all again. (147-48) Here is a significant ambiguity: "it all" may well connote the whole process of being and ceasing to be a lover, and "again" suggests that Krebs has been through this process before. Descriptions of Krebs' lack of involvement with the local girls occupy one fourth of the story. These descriptions converge around the word "complicated," repeated four times in this context. The girls live in "a complicated world" (148); "They were too complicated" (148); "it [to talk to a girl] is too complicated" (149); and "He had tried so to keep his life from being complicated"(152). The latter quotation suggests that the most difficult problem is not the complicated realm of the girls, but Krebs' fear of the complexity that might result from any approach he might make. Once he talks to a girl, he must get through a complicated sexual encounter all over again. Conversations, for Krebs, make the male/female sexual relationship complicated. His aversion to such relationships, we are to infer, derives from previous experiences with women that have perhaps reinforced his observations of his parents' marriage. As many have noted (see Smith 71-72), one of the photographs discussed in the story's opening paragraphs suggests an unsatisfactory experience with German girls. Krebs and another corporal, both in poorly fitting uniforms, stand with two German girls Who are "not beautiful"beside a Rhine that "does not show in the picture"(145).[ 1] The picture suggests an irony: the American soldiers, once enemies, date German girls with whom they share no common language. Because the American soldiers do not have to talk, and because the German girls are probably prostitutes, relationships between them are uncomplicated. Without any need for conversation, the soldiers simply satisfy their lust on the prostitutes' bodies. Just as he emphasizes the German girls' lack of beauty, Hemingway also erases the Rhine to show the lack of romance in such relationships. In "Soldier's Home," he juxtaposes two worlds: the simple one Krebs shared with the German girls, and the potentially complicated realm of the hometown girls. "A Very Short Story," written between June and July 1923, helps shed light on this aspect of the later "Soldier's Home," composed in April 1924. An equally bleak story, also a mixture of Hemingway's own experiences and fictitious material, "A Very, Short Story" appeared first as the untitled Chapter Ten in the 1924 three mountains press in our time, and was later titled and revised for inclusion in the 1925 Scribner's In Our Time. The crucial difference between the two versions is that the name of the protagonist's lover has been changed from Ag in the 1924 edition to Luz in the 1925 edition. It is well known that the love affair between a wounded soldier and a nurse, as well as the miserable end of that affair, are based on Hemingway's own experience of being jilted by Agnes von Kurowsky. However, the story's conclusion, where the protagonist has a sexual encounter with a sales girl in a taxicab and contracts gonorrhea, is considered fictitious. As Robert Scholes and Scott Donaldson have observed, this conclusion reflects Hemingway's undisguised anger towards "Ag" and his own self-pity. Taking some expressions and ideas directly from Agnes' "Dear John" letter of 7 March 1919 (qtd. in Villard and Nagel 163-64), Hemingway drew the raw materials for "A Very Short Story" from his own experience. If "A Very Short Story" is one version of Hemingway's unhappy love affair with Agnes, "Soldier's Home" may be another--more sophisticated because its author's bitterness is more sublimated. The "it" in "never get through it all again" may fruitfully be interpreted as Hemingway's suffering after he received the letter from Agnes. He describes Krebs' self-protective attitude, his aversion to being trapped by another love affair that may bring him new pain: "It was not worth it. Not now when things were getting good again" (148). Krebs does not want to be disturbed; it is good enough for him simply to "look at" girls on the street (147,148). He is able to keep his mind peaceful by avoiding talking to the girls. Although the first part of the story suggests that some of Krebs' trauma has been caused by the war, a related and complementary inference is that he may also be recovering from the shocks of a failed love affair. In The Sun 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). 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." NOTES 1. J. Gerald Kennedy and Kirk Curnutt see similarities between "Soldier's Home" and Gertrude Stein's "Accents in Alsace;' which includes the sentence "In the photograph the Rhine hardly showed" (Kennedy and Curnutt 2). They argue that the mother-son conflict in "Soldier's Home" parallels a rift between Stein and Hemingway (8). WORKS CITED 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. ~~~~~~~~ By TATEO IMAMURA Tokyo Women's Christian University Copyright of this work is the property of Hemingway Society and its content may not be copied without the copyright holder's express written permission except for the print or download capabilities of the retrieval software used for access. This content is intended solely for the use of the individual user. Accession Number: 9612173499

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