An analysis of ”Hemingway’s style” in Soldier’s Home Essay Sample
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An analysis of ”Hemingway’s style” in Soldier’s Home Essay Sample
Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” has received much attention, especially from the Vietnam-era baby boomers. Like many of his pieces, the story is much more complex then it seems on the surface. Mr. Hemingway is renowned for his description, though he is sometimes criticized for the seeming simplicity of “Soldier’s Home.” Upon closer examination, the story becomes not only a simple tale of a young man returning from war, but also a story of a commonplace struggle, portrayed through the eyes of young Krebs. This style of simplicity and implied meaning is a trademark of Ernest Hemingway, and is what sets him apart from many other writers.
I agree with those claiming that the story of Krebs is based of the life experience of young Ernest Hemingway. Mr. Hemingway was also a WWI veteran, and faced similar problems when he returned home. He too arrived far after the soldier’s welcome was over, and also lost faith in the comforting institutions of family values, tradition, and religion. Because of his unique tie to Krebs, the story flows easily and comes to life for the reader. Hemingway’s liberal use of vague passages is an unusual trait in his stories, for he is often noted for his specific writing. These passages were included to show the mindset of young Krebs. For instance, the author spends several paragraphs showing the reader Krebs’ thoughts on girls; specifically why he does not want to bother with them even though he admires them. In paragraph 12, Krebs tells the reader that he does not want the consequences of a girl, and then goes off on a tangent about men and what girls mean to them. This passage is vague, and does not seem to contribute to the plot.
However, it serves to show the wandering mindset of the narrator. The author wants the reader to be inside the head of the narrator, to understand the world through his eyes and his eyes only. This passage is a way of letting the reader in on Krebs’ sense of drifting. Krebs’ mental drifting is a symbol of the physical drift between himself and the rest of the world, particularly his hometown and family. When Krebs leaves for the war, he is an accepted part of his community. This is evident from the first few paragraphs, which serve the sole purpose of illustrating this to the reader. He is in a picture with his friends, all wearing the same hairstyle and collar. From the moment he steps off the train, he feels out-of-place. He does not return with the other soldiers, but rather much later. He does not settle into the community as the rest of the men his age do, but rather spends his time playing pool, sleeping late, and practicing the clarinet. This layering effect is a style that makes the story easy to read, but gets the author’s themes across in a creative and literary way.
The diction of a piece provides clues to the author’s general style, and forms the foundation on which the story (and the style in which it is presented) is built. Careful word choice and placement is a trademark of a good author and Mr. Hemingway is certainly no exception. Mr. Hemingway uses informal language almost explicitly, and often time’s uses substandard language and slang in the story’s dialogue. There are several reasons why the author might have chosen to do this. First, it makes the story easy to read for the common person of the twentieth century. Second, and more importantly, it gives the reader a sense of the soldier’s simplicity. Finally, it serves the blandness that Krebs is trying to show his town. His town often wants him to tell stories of the glories of war, but Krebs knew that real war was nothing like what the town wanted to hear. “Krebs acquired the nausea in regard to experience that is the result of untruth or exaggerations…” (6). War for Krebs was simple; there were no trumpets, banners, or visions of grandeur.
There was only fear: not the most glamorous emotion. This tying of plot and style is an amazing way of making the story realistic. A good example of diction painting a picture of the narrator’s attitude can be found in paragraph 45. Krebs responds with “Uh, huh” to his little sister’s question. Hemingway could have used many other positive confirmations (such as yes), but chose this word because is shows Krebs’ indifference in the matter. The reader easily gets a mental picture of a man, eating breakfast and reading the newspaper, tuning out his little sister. Use of words like “yeah” and “uh huh” compliment Krebs’ decision to not take his place in the community yet.
Equally important to the style of the story is the structure of the sentences and paragraphs. While long, complex sentences often give the feel of deep contemplative thought or detailed description, shorter simpler sentences either leave much to be imagined or utilize a few vivid words in place of several more abstract ones. Simple sentences with one subject and one verb overwhelm the end the story, where more complex sentences with more then one subject and many times several verbs dominate the beginning. For instance, the following sentence is a complex sentence with two subjects and two verbs: “There is a picture which shows him among his fraternity brothers, all of them wearing exactly the same height and style collar.” The final paragraph is exclusively simple sentences save the first sentence. This serves to show the regression of Krebs from a normal part of the community to a man searching for an identity. The war simplified Krebs life, just as Mr. Hemingway simplifies his story as he goes along. Again, the marriage of plot and style make this story outstanding.
Almost every paragraph starts with the word ‘Krebs’ or ‘he’ (referring to Krebs). This greatly affects the reader subconsciously, as the focus of the story is never shifted off its narrator. By starting each paragraph with a sentence about the narrator, the reader’s thoughts are always refocused on his life, keeping the readers attention. Mr. Hemingway barrels the reader down the channels of Krebs brain, rarely allowing for a shift in thought. Combining this with the simplicity of the stories sentences, Krebs is appealing to the reader, and hence so is the story.
Mr. Hemingway’s simple style of writing is in stark contrast to Joseph Conrad. Mr. Conrad prefers elaborate sentences to simple ones, and strong description to vagueness. For instance, Conrad’s opening sentence is four lines long, while Hemingway’s is less then one. While Conrad gives a vivid description of the surroundings of the story, and of the boat’s inhabitants, Mr. Hemingway gives no physical description of the narrator, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination. The result is that Hemingway’s story is easier to read, and utilizes style to get themes across, while Conrad paints a perfect picture for the reader, laying it all out in plain view for the reader to take in. It is also unique in the sense that it addresses a subject that is of importance, without pouring the symbolism and meaning on too thick. In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, the reader is left hanging on a string at the end of the story, and is not even filled in on what is going on until the final two paragraphs. By this time, the reader is confused and left without an understanding of the point of the story, which only invites
criticism and wild speculation. Mr. Hemingway’s short story does not serve the sole purpose of raising a question to society, but rather it is imbedded in a careful way.
In conclusion, Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” is a carefully laid out story. The author chooses his words carefully, and makes sure that each sentence serves some purpose in the overall effect he is aiming to achieve. By utilizing writing techniques that support the author’s theme, he sets himself apart from other writers. Mr. Hemingway is able to attain this goal while not bogging down the reader with complicated sentence structure and tiresome description.