Awful Cruelty Of War In All Quiet On The Western Front By Erich Remarque
All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel by Erich Remarque, a German war veteran, that describes the intense physical and mental stress German soldiers were exposed to during World War I and the change back to civilian life after returning home. All Quiet on the Western Front was not like any other novel about war; it was brutality truthful about what war was really like for the soldiers. The novel completely changed mankind’s understanding of military conflict with its catastrophic levels of violence, battles that last for months, and the gruesome new technology evolving, such as machine guns, poison gas, and trenches. Paul, the narrator of the novel, primarily speaks in the first person plural as he describes the experience of the soldiers around him. He switches to first-person singular as he tells the readers his own thoughts and feelings towards the war. After Paul’s death, the novel switches to an unnamed narrator in the third person. In the following paragraphs I will be discuss the details of World War I, some of the physical stress soldiers were exposed to, and what it was like for the soldiers to return home.
World War I began on July 28, 1914 and lasted until November 11, 1918, slightly over four years. This war, described as “the war to end all wars”, was a war between the allied powers and the central powers. The allied powers were the United States, Japan, Great Britain, France, Russia, Romania, and Italy. The major central power countries were Germany, Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria. The war began after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. War ended when Germany signed an armistice, a treaty for peace and no more fighting, that had been arranged by Britain and France.
During the Great War soldiers experience very powerful physical and mental stress like witnessing death, fearing for their own life, mood swings, losing a close friend or valued leader, etc. Soldiers were subject to constant physical danger, as they could literally be shot or blown to pieces at any moment. Even though soldiers faced more physical stress during the war there was still mental stress. They were forced to live in disturbing circumstances— in filth, waterlogged ditches full of rodents and decaying bodies. They would frequently go without food and sleep, good clothing, and adequate medical care.
Remarque describes the overall effect of these conditions as an overload of terror and misery. The only way for the soldiers to make it through the war was to remove themselves from their feelings, bury their emotions, and tolerate the conditions of their lives. Erich Remarque said it best with the quote, “At school nobody ever taught us how to light a cigarette in a storm of rain, nor how a fire could be made with wet wood-nor that it is best to stick a bayonet in the belly because there it doesn’t get jammed, as it does in the ribs.” This quote does an amazing job demonstrating what condition the soldiers’ mind were in. Paul, for an example, becomes incapable of picturing a future without the war and unable to remember how he felt in the past. A quote from All Quiet on the Western Front that stood out the most was, “Our thoughts are clay, they are molded with the changes of the days; – when we are resting, they are good; under fire, they are dead. Fields of craters within and without.” It is so powerful and describes how the war adjusted the soldiers’ minds and how they have adjusted their minds to make all the wrongs involved with war seem like they are okay. Their imagination is like the battle ground around them, filled with holes and destroyed.
As a result of All Quiet on the Western Front being narrator among the soldiers fighting on the front, its focus is the damaging effect that war has on the soldiers who fight. After war was over many soldiers experienced PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, when they returned to their family and friends. Soldiers can have a hard time adjusting to life outside of the war. What the soldiers experienced is best explained by what Army veteran, Daniel Somers, said, “I am left with nothing. Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war.” It is best to make sure the soldier knows they’re not alone and that there are countless ways to deal with cope with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
At the end of the novel, almost all the major characters had died, symbolizing the war’s overwhelming effect on the generation of young men who were forced to fight. All Quiet on the Western Front did remarkable job unfolding the awful cruelty of war on the soldiers and their families. While novels before All Quiet on the Western Front tended to make war sound romantic by highlighting thoughts such as glory, honor, adventure, and loyalty to their country. In the previous paragraphs I discussed more information about World War I, the conditions for the war, and what soldiers and their families experience when they come home from war.
- Remarque, Erich. “All Quiet on the Western Front.” All Quiet on the Western Front, 1928 https://explainallquietonthewesternfront.weebly.com/uploads/2/4/7/2/24722875/all_quiet_on_the_western_front.pdf
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All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel by Erich Remarque, a German war veteran, that describes the intense physical and mental stress German soldiers were exposed to during […]