Munch created this particular piece to represent the working class of the era. Although it does not have much going on, the painting symbolises the struggle of the working man through the artist's familiar expressionism style. According to critics, Munch once identified himself with the workers.
Depicting the Working Class
Worker Returning Home features several men in uniform, supposedly walking from their place of work in the evening. It is a large group, but only a few of the figures are visible. The rest are silhouettes that only serve to fill the canvas. Except for one, all the men are in blue jackets. So, Munch could be showing that they all work in the same place. It appears as though the men are divided into two groups, with one walking on each side of the street. The leader, who is at the very front, dons a maroon jacket with a dark vest underneath. It lets him stand out from the rest.
Although he has his hat covering most of his face, the leader appears to be looking straight ahead. However, the faces of the two men on the left of the painting are visible. They are forlorn and tired. Munch managed to capture their weariness, which can be attributed to their jobs. From the way they carry themselves, these men seem to be blue-collar workers. The expressions on their faces tell a story of hard-working men who are accustomed to heavy labour.
Munch and Expressionism
The Norwegian painter is famous for his expressionist pieces that did not conform to the ordinary. Munch used light, wry lines to outline the figure in the painting, which creates the illusion of movement. He did the bottom of the painting in light tones and strokes, such that they appear translucent. The spectator can see through the legs of one of the men at the front into the street. From the cobbled streets below to the rooftops in the distance, the workers may be walking in a residential village.
Although most of the faces are mere silhouettes, the spectators can almost feel their exhaustion. It is in the way their shoulders are hunched as they walk. The blurry outline of the workers depicts a long procession that fades into the background of the painting. Another Munch painting that resembles Workers Returning Home is Workers in The Snow. However, the subjects in the latter are highly defined.