Returning Home: Comparing “They Shall Not Grow Old” with “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Soldier’s Home”

Krebs, Baumer, and the real British soldiers may be different, but their challenging experiences when they returned home on leave or at the end of the war were shockingly similar. Hemingway’s Soldier’s Home, Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, and They Shall Not Grow Old (directed by Peter Jackson) may be different genres and may have different perspectives of the war, but all three pieces of literature described what it was like for soldiers to struggle to reconnect with their ‘past life’; with their lives before the war that most of them had given up on or forgotten. Both Krebs and the British soldiers in Jackson’s movie found that nobody wanted to talk about the war when they returned home. Krebs’ mom couldn’t care less about the war, and many of the British soldiers in Jackson’s documentary mentioned how unpopular the war was as a conversation topic. Also, there was a part in They Shall Not Grow Old when a soldier described his experience of returning home and talking to the mother of one of his dead comrades to tell her about her son’s death. This scene is comparable to a part of chapter 7 of All Quiet, where Baumer returns to his home town on leave and visits Kemmerich’s mother. Although the two scenes are similar, they are both unique because Kemmerich’s mother was more in shock and refused to believe that her son was dead (she accused Baumer of lying to her), where-as the soldier in They Shall Not Grow Old found that his comrade’s mother was angry and hated that the soldier talking to her was alive, not her son. Thus, They Shall Not Grow Old is both similar and different to All Quiet on the Western Front and Soldier’s Home in regards to the WWI soldiers’ experiences with civilians when they returned home.

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