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Coming Home from the War as Described in The Things They Carried and Soldier's Home

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Tim O’Brien’s chapter “Speaking of Courage” from his book “The Things They Carried” is very similar to Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Soldier’s Home” when it comes to the way they tell the story of men coming home from war. Although both authors use a different style of writing to portray the difficulties and issues the soldiers face when they come home, they both try to show the reader what it is like for the soldiers and how they must feel.

To begin, in “Speaking of Courage”, Norman Bowker returns home to Iowa from war. He spends the Fourth of July driving around a lake reminiscing and thinking about old friends and how everybody’s life has changed since he’s been gone. He talks about how proud his father is because he brought home so many medals, but he can’t stop thinking of the one medal he didn’t get. The Silver Star. His friend, Kiowa, died while they were in Vietnam. Kiowa was drowning in muck and Bowker grabbed his boot in order to try and pull him up, but when he couldn’t he left him there and saved himself. Bowker blames himself for the death of Kiowa and carries the guilt around everywhere he goes. This chapter shows how much soldiers dealing with mentally even after the war is over and they have returned home. Even though Kiowa’s death is not Bowker’s fault, Bowker will always think it is and will never be able to get rid of the guilt that he has. He eventually kills himself of the weight the war had on him mentally.

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Secondly, in “Soldier’s Home”, Krebs returns home to Oklahoma after the first World War. He returns home after many soldiers, so he is a little late to the welcoming home “party”. Nobody wants to listen to the stories he has to tell because they have all heard way too many, gruesome stories about the war. He starts to make up lies so that people will listen to him, but he didn’t feel right about that and people still didn’t care much, so he stopped with that. Krebs’ story of returning home is similar to Bowker’s because he realizes how the people he knew before have changed, especially the girls. Krebs feels like his life is chaotic and just wants it to start going smoothly. His life changed so much after the war, and he feels he can no longer love anyone or even pray. He reads a book where he learns about the war and what he was doing. He wants his life to be normal again, but it will be forever changed from the war, and he wants to understand the war and why it had such a big impact on his life. This story revealed to the audience how much soldier’s lives change during the time they are gone and how it affects them. It is very similar to Bowker, but it differs because krebs’ story was more about what changed with him and his relationships, while Bowker’s was more about the mentality and the weight of the war that soldiers carry mentally.

Lastly, the style that both writers use to complement their messages are very different. O’Brien uses a very non-judgemental tone and explains the events that took place during his time in war in great detail. He tries not to use very strong language, so the reader is more affected by the events that took place rather than the language that exaggerates the events. He also uses the fact that he was there and first-hand accounts of war, so it seems like the reader is there and the stories feel more real. On the other hand, Hemingway wants the reader to understand the long term effects soldiers face when they come home from war. He uses more of a depressing tone to show the side effects war has on a soldier. For example, he makes it so nobody wants to listen to krebs’ stories and makes krebs’ feel like he can’t love anyone anymore. The war scarred and completely changed krebs’ life and kind of took the life out of him. He did this to show the hard truth of war and how it can change somebody for life.

In conclusion, “Speaking of Courage” and “Soldier’s Home” tell similar stories of soldiers coming home from war and the things they have to deal with and the issues they face. Although the contents of the stories are different, both authors want the reader to be aware of what happens to soldiers during and after wartime and the toll it takes on their lives. From their whole worlds changing since they’ve been gone to seeing their friends die, soldiers go through a lot and the authors wanted the readers to know how hard it is to adapt back to life in peacetime and deal with issues that they have both physically and mentally.  

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