Out of the three leads, Homer is the one who gets the most love. He's an Iron Woobie who has all the film's most memorable scenes, and provides most of the Tear Jerkers. His actor Harold Russell was even awarded two Oscars because they didn't think he'd win the one he was nominated for.
Al getting drunk on his first night back home, going out with his wife and daughter. He ends up roleplaying that he's still overseas and Milly is another woman. She snarkily plays along.
"You didn't tell me you were married."
After Homer leaves the bar, a waiter comes to the table to take the order. Al — who is already standing up — grabs the waiter by the hand and starts waltzing with him.
Woody Merill sums it up nicely when Peggy asks what's wrong with Fred and Marie's marriage.
"Nothing, except one slight detail. They don't like each other."
Peggy later (after Fred has broken it off with her) grumpily saying her career as a home wrecker is now over.
Ho Yay: Fred and Al end up drunkenly cuddling each other in the back of the car. Millie jokes that they make a lovely couple.
Jerkass Woobie: Luella was incredibly insensitive when she led the neighbourhood kids to spy on Homer's hooks, but you absolutely feel for the poor girl after Homer's outburst. She's clearly feeling horrible about what just happened.
"Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: While the film still has lots of artistic merit these days, it can be lost on modern audiences just how groundbreaking the subject matter was. Throughout the war, the general public had been bombarded by Frank Capra's Why We Fight films — glamorizing the war as a heroic and patriotic endeavor. This film was made with the intent to tell the public about how the soldiers had to readjust to mundane life after coming home. Fred, for example, was a decorated Captain, but since he came from poverty, he can only manage a minimum-wage job at a department store. Likewise, Al can no longer relate to his children after they grew up while he was away. While seen as a good source of drama today, the topics the film tackles were something a 1940s audience had never seen before. All Quiet on the Western Front was really the only other notable project to really emphasise that War Is Hell — which is why it is still relevant today.
Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: At the time, this was the first film to really show how badly the soldiers had it when they returned home. After ages of the familiar Why We Fight films stressing the Black and White Morality of the war, this told audiences about the difficulties returning soldiers faced.
Strawman Has a Point: One guy in a diner tells Homer that the military basically duped him and cost him his hands. While one could hardly blame him for being upset, since the Nazis and Japanese might have done more damage, had he not been in the war, there is no debating that he still would have had his limbs intact.
The scene with Homer returning home, where his own mother gasps in horror upon seeing his metal hooks. And Homer flashes a pained expression across his face...
A real life example: The man who played Homer went bankrupt after this movie and ended up having to sell his Oscars.note The reason he sold the Oscar was because his wife needed surgery and they wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise.
Towards the end, as Fred finds himself in the bombers' graveyard, row upon row of rusting hulks no longer needed with the war over, symbolizing his own worthlessness as a war hero with nowhere else to go. When he crawls into one wreck to relive yet another flashback, you're crying for him. Subverted when he's discovered by a guy overseeing that graveyard who's starting a project to break the hulks down into metal housing for the families of returning war vets. Fred finds out they're hiring.
Unintentionally Sympathetic: It's hard not to feel sorry for Marie, given that she and Fred were a Fourth Date Marriage and part of the reason she's so unhappy is because he's not letting her work. Yeah, she's having affairs, but she eventually calls for a divorce and frees Fred up to get with Peggy.
To modern viewers, it can seem pretty odd how little attention Al's obvious alcoholism gets.
Subverted with Fred and Marie's marriage. Fred insists she stop working even when they become too broke to go out any more. It's used to show Fred as an idiot and it's a hint that there are cracks in the marriage already.
Values Resonance: The story of soldiers having trouble readjusting to their lives before the war still holds up, especially as the world they left is now different and they have to try and find their place in it — something that's not only still relevant today, it's even more relevant than it was at the time, with PTSD becoming a major topic in the news and in people's minds today as soldiers come home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the other hand for people circa 1946 the issue of returning war vets usually hit a lot closer to home than for modern viewers.With almost all able bodied males having served during the war it was rare to have a family that didn't deal with this issue.So for folks in 1946 it mattered more due to the sheer numbers of individuals that served compared to later wars.