The best stories demonstrate a characters growth over time. Flat characters do not change and instead remain static throughout the course of the story. However, dynamic characters change in how they think, feel and act. Because real life is dynamic in nature, many readers tend to appreciate fluctuation within the characters featured in the story. In the story “Soldier’s Home” by Earnest Hemingway the main character, Krebs, shows a great deal of change in both his thoughts and actions that make him an intriguing antihero. He is wrought with negative qualities such as constant lying, an argumentative nature and his ill opinion of women and yet the reader feels sympathy for him because this behavior is a result of his complex past.
Kreb self reports that he is a liar throughout the story. What changes in regards to his lies are how they make him feel about himself. Early in the work Hemingway portrays an image of a young man unfazed by his lies. It is almost as though Kreb needed those lies to be able to make it through the war. After fighting in the war and coming back to the United States with little welcome, he no longer needed to lie to impress people. It was almost as though he had given up on life itself and was unprepared to lie again until the end of the story. The lies he tells his mother about praying and being a “good boy” are inherently different then his boasting during the war. His mother represents a foil, a character who feels the exact opposite in opinion to Krebs. She believes in God just when Krebs is giving up on the world altogether. When he lies to her is does so because he doesn’t wish to hurt her not because he feels the energy to impress anyone.
Much like Krebs’ mother is the reason behind the dynamic change in Kreb’s lying, she also brings about his less aggressive nature. Despite telling his sister only a page earlier in the story that he loves her, Krebs tells his mother than he loves no one. “He had only hurt her.” Krebs thinks this to himself just after his attack on her. Hurting others seems to quell his aggression momentarily but one wonders how long term these changes are. Instead will his aggression bubble up again in the next moment that angers him? This very question is what makes Krebs such an intriguing character.
Finally, Krebs shows one more consistent characterization that changes over time, his perceptions of women. At first he describes women in the context of gossip while also highly sexualizing them both in his past interactions during the war and while watching US women walking down the street. His views on women show some complexity once the characters of his mother and sister are introduced. His sister, whom he likes demonstrates his ability to see some semblance of respect for women and his mother, whom he loves and despises brings about a more negative side. Ultimately, Krebs feels bound by women as evidenced in his lies to his mother.
The character Krebs shows dynamic changes through the course of the story. His time in the war clearly affected his perception of reality and his own place in the world. These changes are evidenced in his lies to his mother, his aggressive outbursts and his inner treatment of women. Although not a loveable character, Krebs is a realistic one and Hemingway engages his readers with a consideration of his flaws.