Free «A Soldier's Home» Essay Sample

The short story, “A Soldier’s Home” by E. Hemingway depicts personal and psychological problems experienced by soldiers and war veterans returned home.  What is most revealing for the author’s purposes is the soldier's reaction to the incident in light of the expectations adhering in the traditional role. Whatever force their testimony about the War and their own actions within it may have had was deflected by the allowances made for their "condition." These soldiers' desperate exploits were given full media coverage and rendered the "violent vet" image empirically valid. Unfortunately, that image was indiscriminately bestowed upon the veterans. Such recognitions intensified the soldiers' anomie by reinforcing their low social status. For all the veterans, then, the explanation offered to ac- count for their cognitive difficulties aggravated those difficulties. The diagnosis became itself part of the disease. Thesis Contradictionsand differences between two world, war and home, cause a great suffering to Harold heated by lack of understanding and emotion burden of casualties of war. 

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Through the character of Harold, Hemingway portrays that the veterans' self-conception was structured not only by the face-to-face recognitions bestowed by laymen but also through interpretations administered, often indirectly, by specially trained personnel. The veterans' own words clarify precisely how inappropriate such a privatizing explanation finally is. “He did not want to leave Germany. He did not want to come home. Still, he had come home.” (Hemingway). Through the communication channels of mass society, identity-repair personnel produced a reality in which virtually all Americans participated and which in turn acted back upon them. The recognition of the soldiers as victims stripped them of all credibility in their efforts to bear witness. As sufferers of a psychiatric disorder, they were automatically judged unreliable.

The main emotional problems are caused by this haunting silence which is crucial for understanding one facet of the soldiers' role conflict. Traditionally, the returning veteran role obligates one to recount events which transpired on the fields of fire. Like their fathers, upon whose accounts their young imaginations fed, the veterans were bursting with stories of courage, fear, compassion, sacrifice, and camaraderie. “People seemed to think it was rather ridiculous for Krebs to be getting back so late, years after the war was over” (Hemingway). These components are basic to war, even an otherwise tainted one. After the war, Harold comes to another alien world he knows nothing about.  “He liked the girls that were walking along the other side of the street. … But the world they were in was not the world he was in” (Hemingway). They constitute the raw materials out of which culturally mediated conceptions of human possibility are forged. The veteran, like certain kinds of handicapped or deformed individuals in American culture, went overlooked and unheard. By assimilating and internalizing the message communicated in the eyes-averted and ears-plugged stance of the "silent majority" of his countrymen, a new identity: outsider.

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Having physically survived the "invisible enemy" in Germany, the soldiers returned to face a different enemy. The postwar experience of the veterans can best be interpreted in terms of the contradictory recognitions they were subjected to and the deprivation they underwent as a result. The veteran like Harold, that is, was placed in a situation in which the social expectations he faced were incompatible, and therefore his sense of order was severely undermined. In social-scientific terms, the veterans endured massive and prolonged role conflict which led to anomie as the complex web of recognitions and non-recognitions the veterans encountered in the World rendered them homeless.

The problem of alienation and social isolation can be seen as emotional blindness of Harold. As predicted by Hemingway, the soldier's self-conception underwent drastic alteration to conform to the possibilities inherent in his new role--itself an "artifact" of the war conflict. The returning warriors' experience in Germany had been located in a specific, socially constructed world very unlike the world they were reentering. Hemingway writes: “Vaguely he wanted a girl but he did not want to have to work to get her. He would have liked to have a girl but he did not want to have to spend a long time getting her” (Hemingway). This distinction is one upon which a great deal hinges. This description implies that the specific, socially constructed world of the war zone gave rise to a German world view; that this world view encompassed characteristically war roles to which were attached war identities; and that these identities embraced a distinctive psychological reality. Harold follows the same behavior patterns as his peers, “boys like Charley Simmons who are on their way to being really a credit to the community” (Hemingway). Hemingway portrays that this selection indicates that in certain social contexts identity is socially enjoined rather than socially bestowed. Person selection accomplished on the basis of only a superficial knowledge of individuals frequently results in a less than ideal correspondence between institutional requirements and individual aptitude. Nonetheless, the large social agglomerates of the public sphere have at their disposal the requisite mechanisms of social control, including a virtual monopoly of the instruments of violence, to ensure compliance. “Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie and after he had done this twice he, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about it” (Hemingway). An appreciation of the particular roles at stake in this instance of role dispossession and role reassignment explains why a number of people volunteered to serve another tour of duty.

Separation and emotional problems experienced by Harold is a result of his inability to understand new world and his structure. Harold undergoes identity transformation through precisely the same process as their previous metamorphosis into warriors: internalization of the complex web of recognitions and non-recognitions in which they are suspended. The most impressing is the dialogue between Harold and his mother depicting emotional apathy towards family when the mother asks Harold: “Don't you love your mother dear boy?" "No," Krebs said” (Hemingway). This dialogue shows how a particular self-image comes to be performed and an alternative one defined and assimilated. Not only the content of the recognitions that structure an individual's identity requires specification but also the social location of those actors sponsoring the recognitions. That is, we need to take such recognitions out of the ether called "society" and pinpoint them in the particular social environment in which they actually operate. The discrepancy between the war roles and new social duties has implications for the society and the main character.

In sum, the short story vividly portrays that after-war experienced is worse for many soldiers like Harold. Hemingway distinguishes between collectivity and individual's world view. Harold’s identity in that social world is not accepted by others and his family. Similar to many other war veterans, Harold lives in particular and discrete bounded social universes of other actual persons rather than in "a new world". These interpretations became objectivity maintained through ongoing social interaction. Interpretations imposed upon the ex-soldiers by their social groups became true descriptions as a consequence of the human activity in which they were embedded. The differences between social organization within the military and the social relations create a sense of disillusion and anxiety.

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