Krebs’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Depicted in Ernest Hemmingway’s Soldier’s Home

A war veteran often brings his memories from war to their civilian live. However, some of them cannot adapt to civilian life although they came from ordinary civilians. This issue can lead us to postwar trauma that war veterans felt. Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemmingway is the example of postwar traumatic short story. The story is about a war veteran from World War I named Harold Krebs who find it hard to socialize with his own people after he come back from the war. He come back from the war late, and the hysteria of welcoming the veterans was gone. Krebs did not want to tell the story about the war, moreover he tell lies instead of the truth. According to Nancy C. Andreasen’s article about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (2011), there is a well-established syndrome, defined by a characteristic set of physiological (autonomic) and cognitive and emotional symptoms, that occurs after exposure to severe physical and emotional stress. “PTSD is a variety of stressors can induce a final common pathway that is expressed by a variety of autonomic/physiologic, cognitive, and emotional symptoms that occur in response to a severe stressor.” (Nancy, 2011). The writer found that the main character in this story, Krebs, is having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. This paper will focus on Krebs’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms and the evidence in the story. There are three at least, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms that Krebs have.

First, Krebs’ memories that makes him remember the war can lead to PTSD. Involuntary memories related to traumatic events are a core symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as defined in the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Many of his memories in the army that he still remember. His memories can lead him into PTSD. For instance, when he read the history book on the porch:

“He sat there on the porch reading a book on the war. It was a history and he was reading about all the engagements he had been in. It was the most interesting reading he had ever done. He wished there were more maps. He looked forward with a good feeling to reading all the really good histories when they would come out with good detail maps . . .” (Hemmingway, 1925)

It depicted that Krebs can actually feel all of the engagements that he had been in the war. Based on Ehlers (2002), these memories typically occur as sensory impressions including images, body sensations, sounds/voices, or smells. By reading the history book, Krebs interested with it and wished more maps so he can feel more his experience of war. Although he was tired of war, he keeps telling lies about the war to make people pay attention to him. He wanted to be listened. In the begining of the story, Krebs at first did not want to tell anything about the war, but later when he wanted to talk about it, no one wanted to listen. Krebs did not want to be isolated by the society. Thus he make his war story similar to other soldier story. According to Nomura (2013), a veteran’s isolation from his community is often caused by the socienty’s collective amnesia towards veterans and the veteran’s own repressed emotion.

Second, Krebs’ avoidance against war experience. Avoidance is a common reaction to trauma. Avoidance is not only about an event or places, but it can be avoidance against people. As it depicted at the begining of the story, Krebs tried to avoid talking about the war. However, he was denial by ensuring himself that he did not really need a girl as the army thought him at war.

“He did not want any consequences. He did not want any consequences ever again. He wanted to live along withoutconsequences.” (Hemmingway, 1925)

As it depicted above, Krebs seems having a traumatic issue about consequences. According to National Center for PTSD’s article, the part of the story above belong to Emotional avoidance. Emotional avoidance is when a person avoids thoughts or feeling about a traumatic events.

The last symptoms is behavior changes. Behavior changes or it usually called arousal symptoms is a symptoms that can make the person who have PTSD react differently than he or she normally do.

“Is that all?” Krebs said. “Yes. Don’t you love your mother, dear boy?” “No,” Krebs said . . . “I didn’t mean it,” he said. “I was just angry at something. I didn’t mean I didn’t love you.” (Hemmingway, 1925)

He said that he did not mean to hurt his mother. The researcher thought that he became like that because his mother was asking about what he were going to do, and Krebs did not know the answer. Based on the story, his parents worried about him, about his ambition and his aim in life. Krebs seems like did not know what should he do with the situation, so he suddenly become mean.

In conclusion, people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are having their own stories. A veteran often has an event that makes him or her become trauma. In Ernest Hemmingway’s Soldier’s Home, the main character is a veteran of world war I who have some Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms. Some of the symptoms is triggered by his war experience and story. His war experience become the main reason why he is having those symptoms. His untold story about world war I makes his world become different from he was in.

References :

Andreasen, Nancy C. “What is post-traumatic stress disorder?” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 13,3 (2011): 240–3.

American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed. ed.). Arlington, VA: Author

Ehlers A. (2015). Understanding and treating unwanted trauma memories in posttraumatic stress disorder. Zeitschrift Für Psychologie/Journal of Psychology, 218, 141–145. doi:10.1027/0044–3409/a000021 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]

Hemingway, Ernest, and Robert Young. Soldier’s home. Learning in Focus, 1976.

Kleindienst, Nikolaus et al. “Trauma-related memories in PTSD after interpersonal violence: an ambulatory assessment study” European journal of psychotraumatology vol. 8,1 1409062. 12 Dec. 2017, doi:10.1080/20008198.2017.1409062

Koki, and Nomura. “Life as Bacon Fat : War, Adventure, and Trauma in Hemingway’ s ‘Soldier’ s Home’ <論文>.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, The Royal Society, 30 Mar. 2013, doi.org/10.15027/34681.