War can be defined as a situation in which competing enemies are involved in an active struggle. Different authors have over time written war stories and their effects on individuals. Tim O’Brien wrote “How to tell a true war story while Ernest Hemmingway wrote ‘Soldier’s Home’. Both stories illustrate to readers the effects of war on an average person. Both stories are the same in many aspects because both authors had a stint in the army. O’Brien served in the Vietnam War and he chooses a narrator in his story who is the same as him. This makes the reader believe in O’Brien’s stories as if they actually happened. Hemmingway, on the other hand, served in the World War I and bases his story on real life experience such as lies, relationships and death.
In both stories, we are told that soldiers in a war do whatever that they like. This is supported in ‘Soldier’s Home’ when Krebs does nothing to get a job or make money throughout the day. In ‘How to tell a true War Story’ O’Brien is of the opinion that a soldier yearns for a perfect world while in the battle zone. On his return home, Krebs is truthful and blunt on his answer not caring how others take it.
Themes can be referred to as the fundamental ideas that have been explored in a piece of literature. Both stories have the theme of physical and emotional burden in which the characters are both figurative and literal. Both O’Brien and Krebs carry loads that are emotionally heavy. The load is composed of terror, grief, longing and love. Each man’s burden is related to their emotions.
After the end of the war, both men have psychological burden which continue to haunt and define them. They survived the war but continue to carry grief, and confusion.
Fear of shame as a motivation is delved in both stories. O’Brien experiences in war shows that the motivating factor in war is the fear of feeling ashamed before peers. Krebs also has the fear of relating to the towns people and even his own family.
Both stories explain the complexities of relating war experience to story telling/narration. Tim O’Brien chooses to have a fictional narrator who is also known by his name Tim O’Brien. He shows that the narrator has the power to shape the opinions of his listeners. In both stories, the authors use the stories to allow the listeners tackle the past experiences .They use narratives to pass their message.
Loneliness and isolation features prominently in both stories. O’Brien explains that there is loneliness and also isolation in Vietnam during the war. He says that loneliness and isolation are destructive the same way as ammunition. Krebs on the other hand is isolated and lonely in his home town since returning from war. He is disillusioned and is unable to fit in his society or even his family.
Both titles Soldier’s Home and How to Tell a True war story are both ironical. Soldier’s home in real sense refers to a place of rest, a place of retirement but in the story, Krebs does not find rest in his home town, in fact he suffers from post traumatic stress and isolation. In How to Tell True War Story, it is ironical that O’Brien starts by saying the story is true only to argue later at the end that one should not believe a true war story since it is even impossible for one to tell a war story that it is true.
In Soldier’s Home, we find that Krebs lies so much to the extent that when he returns home, lying makes him sick. O’Brien backs this theme when he says that one Hs to stretch the truth and lie so as to make the public believe ones war story. Krebs tells his stories of war with other war veterans assembled at the pool room. In the same way, O’Brien tells others about his war experiences. Readers of Hemmingway story are told that people do not want to hear Krebs’ stories while on the other hand O’Brien also thinks that war stories are meant for people who do not listen.
‘How to Tell a true War Story’ is not straight forward and does not follow chronological paths from the start to the end like a traditional story. Instead it has a collection of various small stories that have been interspersed with instruction on war stories.
The story also has commentary whereby the narrator says that a war story which is true is never moral. The narrator through commentary also argues that distinguishing on what really happened from what seemingly happened in a true war story is difficult.
. The protagonists in both ‘How to Tell a True War Story’ and A Soldier’s Home’ tell the stories of their lives and also about war and its effects on their lives. This can be seen in the modifications of war stories by O’Brien and the social isolation of the protagonist in Hemmingway’s story. In both stories, the protagonists are traumatized by their time in the military service. O’Brien accepts that fabrication is essential and relevant to his stories. He agrees on his stress that is post traumatic and admits to telling lies through his literature.
Hemmingway’s depiction on stress occasioned by war differs from that from O’Brien because his war veteran, Krebs is recovering from the effects of war on him. Krebs does not like remembering his time in the military. While O’Brien likes embellishing and talking about the truth, Krebs was sick of it. Krebs depicts negative effects of war by emotionally alienating himself from the society. He still lives in his parents’ home and is not married or has any career.
Ernest Hemmingway’s ‘Soldier’s Home’ is not a story about an old soldier in an old people’s home waiting to die, but it is a story of a young man called Harold Krebs who has just returned from war and is unable to figure out what he wants in life. Although he is at home, he does not feel at home. It is like he did not want to come home. Krebs knows that he has changed but everything else in his hometown seems the same.
He is expected to pick up and continue with life from where he had left while going to war but he does not know how to do that. He is confused. He feels no one understands what he is undergoing, the turmoil that is within him. The many atrocities he witnessed in the war zone have made him not to believe in God anymore. One feels sorry and sympathy for Krebs. His troubles can be compared to what other war veterans went through when they arrived back home from war.
Krebs is timid and uncomfortable in the company of women except his immediate family members. He depicts a picture on how hard it is to be assimilated back in to ones society after military service.
Social acceptance as a theme in Ernest Hemmingway’s Soldier’s Home and O’Brien’s How to Tell a True War Story is significant in both stories. Both major characters are isolated socially and are unable to relate well with all those who are around them.
It is fair to conclude that neither Krebs nor O’Brien is no better off at the end of these stories than when they started. It is understandable that both writers of these stories- ‘Soldier’s Home’ and How to Tell a true war Story’ were both scarred in the wars. These stories are therefore very personal and the experiences offer us glimpses into the lives of both the authors, their many trials and tribulations that they faced.
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