Soldier’s Home


Ernest Hemingway

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The Car Symbol Analysis

The Car Symbol Icon

The family motor car in “Soldier’s Home” symbolizes ambition and direction. At the time of the story’s setting, automobiles were major symbols of status and wealth. In fact, Krebs’s father uses the car to take out his clients, and parks it in front of the National Bank Building in which his office is located—both actions that underscore the car’s association with social status. The fact that before going to war, Krebs was not allowed to take the car out further establishes driving as a desirable privilege. This also suggests that, at one point in his life, Krebs had desires—notably ones tied to a distinct symbol of American success and self-directed freedom.

Following Krebs’s return, his mother tells Krebs that his father and she have agreed to let him drive the car, so that he can go out and take “the nice girls out riding with” him. The reference to the car here serves to highlight the dramatic shift in Krebs’s apathy following the war. Where Krebs once actively sought to take charge of such a powerful marker of status, his mother now must desperately coax Krebs to use the car—that is, to get out of the house, to take direction of his own life and start working, to enter back into the American system. Though the narrator notes that the car had not changed—“it was still the same car”—the idea of the car importantly has. Instead of representing a promise of mobility, now it exposes Krebs’s sense of paralysis.

The Car Quotes in Soldier’s Home

The Soldier’s Home quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Car. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War and Trauma Theme Icon
Soldier’s Home Quotes

“Your father does not want to hamper your freedom. He thinks you should be allowed to drive the car. If you want to take some of the nice girls out riding with you, we are only too pleased.”

Related Characters: Harold Krebs, Krebs’s Father
Related Symbols: The Car, The Girls
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Car Symbol Timeline in Soldier’s Home

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Car appears in Soldier’s Home. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Soldier’s Home
War and Trauma Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Krebs’s father, who works in real estate, has a motor car that Krebs was not allowed to drive before the war. His father uses the car... (full context)
War and Trauma Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...him that she talked with his father. They’ve decided to let Krebs take the family car out in the evenings. Krebs tells his mother that he bets she made his father... (full context)
War and Trauma Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...and a girl and is finally settling down. She wants Krebs to drive his father’s car, take girls out in the evenings, and find a job. She then says that Krebs... (full context)