Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois July 21, 1899. Hemingway is known to be one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. He has written more than one hundred short fiction stories, many of them to be well known around the world. Some of these short stories had just as powerful an impact as his novels. As a young man, Hemingway left from his hometown to Europe, where he worked for the Red Cross during World War I. His time spent there inspired him to write some of his most famous novels. Most of which spoke of the horrors of the war (Benson xi). Hemingway's short stories, "Soldier's Home" and "Another Country" are used to show the damaging psychological and physical effects of World War I.
Hemingway knew first hand the horrors of war. In May of 1918, Hemingway became an honorary second lieutenant in the Red Cross, but could not join the army because he had a defective left eye. Hemingway first went to Paris, and soon after receiving new orders he traveled to Milan, Italy. The day he arrived, an ammunition factory exploded and he had to carry mutilated bodies and body parts to a makeshift morgue. This was definitely a most terrifying moment for the young Hemingway. After being seriously injured weeks later, Hemingway found himself recovering at a hospital in Milan. After his stay at the American Hospital in Milan, Hemingway was relieved of duty (Mitran 1). Having no other purpose in Europe, he returned unhappily to Oak Park, Illinois. The impression left on Hemingway by his stay in Italy had changed him profoundly. He never really returned to America as an America(Meyer 115).
When Hemingway returned home from Italy in January of 1919 he found Oak Park dull compared to the adventures of war, the beauty of foreign lands, and the romance of an older woman. He was only nineteen but the war had matured him beyond his years. He was now living with his parents who didn't really appreciate what he had been through. His parents where
concerned about his future and wanted him to get a job, and further his education. Hemingway could not find anything he would be interested in. Hemingway often exaggerated his war stories to satisfy his audience. This frustrating period of his life was used to create the short story called, "Soldier's Home" (Meyer 115).
Hemingway's story "Soldier's Home" conveys his feelings of frustration and shame upon returning home to a town and to parents who still had a romantic notion of war and who didn't understand the psychological impact the war had had on him. They would never be able to comprehend what war was all about. The character of Krebs obviously represents Hemingway. Krebs, after graduating from a Methodist college in Kansas, enlisted in the Marines in 1917. He didn't return to the U.S. until years after the war. "He came back much too late." (Hemingway 115) By the time he got back, the people of his town where already tired of the "atrocity stories" of war (Hemingway 116). He felt the urge to talk about his experiences, but no one wanted to listen. This drove Krebs to lie. It seemed to be the only way anyone would listen to him at first. After lying twice, he also had begun to dislike war stories and was turned off by it. This was due to the fact no one even listened to him even when he lied. Even his lies didn't interest people; they already had heard these stories before. Soon Krebs' lies and exaggeration resulted in acquiring the feeling of "nausea". He would sometimes talk to other soldiers and Krebs would "fall into the easy pose of the old soldier among other soldiers: that he had been badly, sickeningly frightened all the time. In this way he lost everything." (Hemingway 116)
The war affected him in such a way that it seemed like he was left with little or no emotions. The Marines had taught Krebs that no man needs a woman. They taught him that women involve too much work and only cause problems. Trying to obtain a relationship involved to many consequences. It wouldn't be worth going through the pain of heartbreak or rejection. He would sit on his porch, and watch women walk by. He admired their clothing, their hair, and they way they walked. He wanted a girl, but didn't want to work for one. He didn't want to go through having the stress and pressure when trying to get a girl. "He did not want any consequences." (Hemingway 117) The only one who treated him like a hero was his little sister. Krebs faith in religion was also effected. It seemed like all his faith faded after the war. His mother explains to Krebs that, "God has some work for everyone to do. There cant be no idle hands in his Kingdom." Kreb replies, "I'm not in his Kingdom." (Hemingway 119) He seemed to have lost his emotions totally. Even as his mother tells him that she prays for him every day, he is too busy looking "at the bacon fat hardening on his plate." (Hemingway 119)
The war had definitely taken its toll on people who survived World War I. They come home from the war (if they come home at all) as different people. These people have seen things that most men will never see. Things that would change someone's lives for the worst, things such as death and destruction. Not only were the soldiers affected psychologically but also physically. As shown in "Soldier's Home", the character Krebs will never again be the same person he was before World War I. It seems as if his will to live has diminished. Krebs suffered harmful psychological effects, but what about the others that survived the war. Some weren't even able to go back home after the war ended.
Hemingway's short story, "Another Country" is about physically injured American soldiers in a hospital in Milan because of the war. These soldiers have sustained major injuries due to fighting on the battlefield. These men will never be the same again. One of the men's knees "did not bend" and his leg "dropped straight from the knee to the ankle without a calf." (Hemingway 206) His leg was put into a machine to rejuvenate it. Next to this man was a major who had a hand like a "little baby's." Like the other man, his hand was attached to a machine. Before the war the major was the greatest fencer in Italy. After they were done with the machines they would go for a walk in town. Another boy joined sometimes, and he wore a "black silk handkerchief across his face." This was because this boy had no nose, and his face was going to be rebuilt. "He had gone out to the front from the military academy and been wounded within an hour after he had gone into the front line for the first time." (Hemingway 207)
These devastating injuries due to the war changed these Americans soldier's lives forever. The boy with the injured leg loved playing football. Now he has to have his leg hooked up to a machine. The boy who lost his nose will never be looked at as a normal person ever again. The major as mentioned before was the greatest fencer in Italy. Now the major's hand resembled a baby's. He, like the other boy used a machine to recuperate. The major asks the boy with the bad leg what his plans were after the war is over. The boy tells him he would go back to the states and get married. This infuriates the major greatly. He tells the boy he can't marry or he would lose everything (Hemingway 209). What the boy doesn't know is that the major's wife had died while he was at war. Because of the war he was not able to be with his wife who was only sick for a few days and was not expected to die. These men aren't even able to go back home because of their injuries. (Hemingway 210)
War can destroy and sometimes end a person's life. Hemingway's short stories, "Soldier's Home" and "Another Country" are used to show the damaging psychological and physical effects of World War I. Hemingway is able to explain these affects of war to his readers most effectively. This is because of his firsthand experience in his involvement in World War I. He had been exposed to the horrors of war himself. In the story "Soldier's Home" a man who represents Hemingway comes home from World War I much to late. No one appreciated what he had done for his country and was forever psychologically damaged. He came home as a totally different person and now couldn't lead a normal life. He didn't have the will to work or obtain an education. The American soldier's in "Another Country" where forever damaged by the war. Each of these men couldn't even leave Europe because of their injuries. These men can never return home and pick up from where they left off. Their injuries will hold them all back from doing the things they love most. One mans injuries held him back from being with his sick wife back at home. These two short stories are perfect examples of how war can change a man's life forever.