Short Stories Comparison – Ernst Hemingway’s “Soldiers Home” and John Updike’s “A &B”

If one is to contrast and compare the two short stories, John Updike’s “A& P”  and Ernst Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home”,  looking beyond the obvious is vital. From the readings, it is quite evident that there exists a stark difference in both time and space in the two short stories. After all, Oklahoma is quite a distance from the beach. It is also noteworthy to acknowledge that, these are among the greatest stories that can be contrasted in Literature. It is my personal opinion that these two stories did contain more substantiation of differences than of similarities. To compare and contrast the two books, one must thus focus on the two protagonists; Sammy and Krebs respectively.

To start with, although both stories are of young protagonists who happen to find themselves in a society that they are out of step with. The reasons for how they eventually turn out or the behavior they exhibit might be quite different. The protagonist in Ernst Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home”, Krebs, is a young disillusioned man who prefers to remain in isolation due to his  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).The  horrors he had seen in war had taken a toll on Kreb’s emotional well-being . Kreb’s desire to live a reclusive life while avoid forms of involvement in everyday life that characterizes his somewhat anti-heroic personality. He lacks any feelings of attachment to anyone or anything as he intends to live a life without consequences(Becnel and Bloom 74). Krebs seems to be emotionally exhausted and in a desperate state of mind. He has been through so much suffering, that he is at a point in life where he wishes to bow out of it to avoid any involvements or attachments.

The description above stands in stark contrast to John Updike’s A & P story of Sammy. He is categorical in making his stand against Lengel, his employer. The main reason for giving his stance is because he has a desire to live a life full of desires and to have attachments with various people. Sammy makes a decision and quits his job, which symbolizes the youthful idealism responsible for inevitably pitting him against society and all the values it stands for. (Gale 27)Even with the knowledge of how life is going to be difficult for him after quitting his job, Sammy still holds steadfast to his decisions and decides not to return to the store (Wheeler 18)Additionally, it is important to note that Sammy is aware of the life he chose the minute he quit his job but the only difference between him and Krebs is that the latter stands at the fringes of society, not having made a decision, passive and a seemingly weak character that has not yet made an active choice.

A comparison can also be made in settings and styles that were used in the two short stories. Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Soldier’s Home”, is serious and presents itself in a gloomy manner.The story told here is a young man who finds it hard to reintegrate back into society after the end of the first world warThe horrors of war and the ghosts that come with it seems to have followed Krebs back home from Europe, at one point even straining the cordial relationship that he shares with his dear mother.Here, Hemingways presents a soldier who is stern and emotionless to all that now surrounds him. On the other hand John Updike’s  short story “A&P”, is responsible for giving the readers a comic style that has an air of youth in it. The story is set on a warm summers day with all the trappings of beach life (plenty of sunshine and beautiful vixens). Sammy lives a life where he feels like he is playing a robot-like role in life.

Sammy has come to the realization that he is living a monotonous life which does not suit him. He decides to take the giant leap of faith and quit his job, the first step in implementing change in his life(Tyler 25). He quits his job after constant badgering from his boss for failing to wear “proper” public attire. It was his hope that his show of rebellion and defiance would bring him to the attention of the vixen by the name “Queenie”, but the girls have already left and are out of sight by now. Even with this decision looming over his head, he still decides to take a step in changing by first quitting his job, hence doing something about his problem. Krebs, on the other hand, feels like he is somehow trapped in his hometown (like the war exists in another dimension). Unlike Sammy, Krebs doesn’t make any effort to solve his problems or improve his situation. Instead, Krebs always sulks about life, constantly suffering from fatigue and devoid of any energy. One might conclude that it is the life of camaraderie and the freedom, minus the grisly aspects, that is the desire of his heart. Krebs situation reduces him to a  proverbial zombie, leaving him walking through life without knowing where he will be or where he wants to be in future.

Sammy and Krebs are said to share similarities, but there are sharp contrasts that exist between the two. Both characters are before a crossroad that requires them to make difficult decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. The two books attempt to parlay the contrast that exists in the stories and the many differing ways that present themselves.


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