Harold Krebbs and Paul Baumer have many similarities and differences. Both are young men, who have enlisted in the military. Krebs is an American marine, and Baumer a German soldier.
Soldiers’ Home is written from the perspective of a man who disliked speaking about his experience in the war when he arrived home, like Baumer. However, Baumer didn’t like to speak on the war because he felt like he was made a spectacle by the people of his town. Krebbs chose not to speak on the war because simply no one listened, and he lied in his stories in order to gain a reaction.
“A distaste for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told. All of the times that had been able to make him feel cool and clear inside himself when he thought of them; the times so long back when he had done the one thing, the only thing for a man to do, easily and naturally, when he might have done something else, now lost their cool, valuable quality and then were lost themselves.” p.1
To Krebbs, the war was an escape from his former life, even when he had come back to it. But this quote shows it disgusted him to reflect on his actions, after pondering his other possible choices.
When both men were home, the largest effect the war had on them was numbness. The things that would usually bring them joy and excitement became a burden to them such as reading, girls, conversation, etc. In response to this, Krebbs would crave the war. This is much different in comparison to Baumer who didn’t want to return to the war, but wanted to return to his normal life, before the war.
“I feel excited; but I do not want to be, for that is not right. I want that quiet rapture again. I want to feel the same powerful, nameless urge that I used to feel when I turned to my books. Thebreath of desire that then arose from the coloured backs of the books, shall fill me again, melt theheavy, dead lump of lead that lies somewhere in me and waken again the impatience of thefuture, the quick joy in the world of thought, it shall bring back again the lost eagerness of myyouth. I sit and wait.” p. 171
Baumer longed for nothing more than his life before the war, and this quote shows how he feels about the things he once loved, and his youth that he had lost.
Baumer enjoyed the presence of his mother much more than Krebbs did. To Baumer, being held by his mother brought him away from the war. She never asked him about combat. To her, he was no longer a soldier, just her son. Krebbs didn’t feel as much as a son or brother when he arrived home.
“So his mother prayed for him and then they stood up and Krebs kissed his mother and went out of the house. He had tried so to keep his life from being complicated. Still, none of it had touched him.” p. 7
His mother did much for him. This quote represents how Krebbs had never properly accepted or reciprocated the love that she had tried to give him, even if he tried.
The war had traumatized both Baumer and Krebbs, but moreover, Krebbs longed for the battlefield, as it may have given him the purpose, he felt he needed. Paul longed for a sense of normalcy and hoped to once more enjoy the things he once loved.