All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
Rachel Areche, “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque
Author Erich Maria Remarque wrote the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” depicting a true war story. In which the main purpose of the book is to highlighting the events and how it impacts the people involved. Contrasting from other books that dealt with the war showing the victories and the bright side.
Most book out try to show how the villains lose and how the victims are then free but in war it’s everyone for the,selves until the war is then over. Unlike typical wars in this book the soldiers are not hired they themselves enlisted in the war. The protagonist, Paul states that his mates and himself do not see it as a duty more like a hobby, not forced. Not to say that war is just a hobby to them they do have to face with the reality and hardships that also come with it. Others that didn’t do the same are shamed by society for not being as brave as these boys and going on their own free will. Although they must face struggles there is still the pride of showing off how they did so good; as shown in the following citation, “ We had fancied our task would be different, only to find we were to be trained for heroism as though we were circus ponies.”
To begin, there is a difference in tone all thought the text. For example it states at first, “ He plays mostly folk songs and the others hum with him… the sound of the violin stands like a slender girl above it and is clear and alone.” (29) It’s strange how Paul’s tone could stay positive after all he is going through in the war. Another instance of tone would be when in “ All Quiet on the Western Front” states, “ The life that has borne me through these years is still in my hands and my eyes… seeks its own way out, heedless of the will that is written me.” (100) Paul knows what are his desires and he won’t settle for less, and speaks his tires and little to no words.
The book also includes a symbolism and imagery. In this novel it shows how a river can have a deeper meaning when Paul and his friends use it as a division between themselves and the real world that lays outside of the War. Just like a river might divided a nation or people in this book it seems like that same water leads to something much beyond it. Water also plays an important role later on in the book because Earth is made up of water and for times like War it’s really useful.
The novel starts with focused on the characters outermost experience, painting a picture to the readers of the harsh reality of war. Shortly, moving on to the Paul’s internal experience, breaking down into his emotional individual and how his mind is filled with confusion and blank space. Comparing to what he once was before the war, the only way to manage now is by pulling apart his feelings and for using on the task that lays ahead. Paul’s emotions is only one point of view thought, one must remember that their are other men who might feel the same or even more like Paul and it’s sad to say that those emotions are not talked about. This demonstrates how the problems being faced are lessening the fact of humankind.
Another example of this is when the doctor simply doesn’t want to help another soldier due to how much tragic body’s he has seen already. The pain that is shown for the doctor mentally and physically for the soldier, Kemmerich. The author is then opening the idea that war doesn’t only affect soldiers but others that have to surround themselves with this idea. The mind and thought process that is risky for the ones involved as though they aren’t in danger enough. His death is then looked upon due to the fact that with or without one men the war must go on and the soldiers are trained to not have emotions when something that this occurs. In the text it states, “ Under the skin the life no longer pulses, it has already pressed out to the boundaries of the body. Death is working through from within.it already has command… yet it is not he any longer.” (72) Paul is not unfamiliar from the death so he knows that his friend is slow but surely dying.
Sadism is a when a person or thing gets pleasure off of causing someone pain or seeing one else suffer. This comes into play when Kat’s talks about the cruel ranking of the military and its effect on the soldiers. War just isn’t harmful when it comes to shooting and getting hurt on the battlefield. But the people that surround you and the ones who are in fact indirect enemies.
In “All Quiet in the Western Front” it states, “ Returning to the barracks he had to go along a dark, uninhabited road. There we waited for him behind piles of stones… door flew open and he bawled.” (66) Showing how sometimes the pressure and stress from bully’s can drive soldiers to do crazy and things they they wouldn’t want to in the end. In general there is always someone is is higher than the other person when it comes to everything. Typically no one sees it as a big deal until it’s too late and something ends up back fighting.
One of the most memorable scenes of the novel was the men’s ride. It’s like actually watching a movie when the intense part is about to come up and you can just see it happening but the ones in the movie can’t.The way the bomb attacks are described in great detail and how it so close to home having to see this transpired. In the text it states,“We have to go on wiring fatigue. The motor lorries roll up. We climb in.” This may seem like a simple sentence but the way the author uses “have to” shows the seriousness of the situation. Even more intensity comes to part when the book states, “The engines drone, the lorries bump and rattle”.(12)The words used in the text are to add the feeling as though you can touch the book and you are intensely inside the war.
An odd conclusion is drawn by Paul referring to the soldier’s connection with the planet. To them it’s all they have, it’s like family that they don’t have with them at the moment. A comparison to animals is made and how they depend on the earth for food and other supplies. He goes in dept to say that this war isn’t fought for patriotism, even though he volunteered but to survive. Going back to how his feelings of a human change to the feelings of an animal. At the same time animal still have emotions, so yes the soldier are compared to animals but in reality it’s worse than animals because these are humans who before these weren’t shown these.
The idea of how men like Paul, younger men didn’t get much out of live . Entering war right after school and how they must not have anything besides the war to depend on, as to comparing someone who is much older and has for example a home, wife and children. The writer shows within the men that there isn’t a world outside of war, that the war might never end. As the soldier try to envisioned there life before the war they still somehow find a way to talk about war. Then thinking about the future is just giving them false hope and they can only for us on not dying and just trying to make it another day.
Paul and his mates make a point when discussing the idea that war makes men who are low life’s want power and dominate people. Bring the third impact of war on a soldier, it makes people have to watch out for themselves even if you are in a team. Creating this bully and nerd type of environment which isn’t healthy ; making it another challenge soldier need to face with during the war. For example this novel is a normal war story, just like the movie a Full Metal Jacket. Where at some point one soldier has had enough of his commanding officer pushing him around so much that he needed up killing him.
War is now explained into more detail the real meaning on what these soldiers were actually trying to do. They wanted the enemies to get weaker so that maybe the war would just end. It’s like the emotions the soldiers carry, they fight but in the end they want it to end although they must not show that. In the novel it states, “ we want to live at any price; so we can not burden ourselves with feelings which, though they might be ornamented enough in peace time, would be out of place here.” (60) The soldier had to stop all the imagination due to the fact that they needed to have their mind focus on no getting killed. Not only that but when things like war occur soldiers tend to have flashbacks and periods where everything stops. It’s surreal but in combat it’s very known for trying to cope and reflect on the scene ahead.
Instead of focusing on the fact that they kill people for a living. They just overlook it as part of the job, they don’t mean to kill the enemies because of the simple fact that they aren’t on the same side. But indeed because that’s how they find ways to let go of all the emotions and anger that built from the war. It’s like an exercise relief to the soldier to kill people, no strings attached and they use humans as a punching bag.
Soldiers try not to discuss their experience out loud it would bring many harsh reality. To people in the war talking to ones who aren’t physically there is worth nothing. Due to the fact that it’s just a you have to be there moment for you to understand the harsh reality that one must go through. Also the fact that they are built to not have emotions unlike others that aren’t and must hear stories like this. Like trying to explain a war story to so,eon who isn’t there is proven very difficult. It not adding more details basically lies it would not get the people to really understand what is it that you are going through and that’s not what soldier want. They want to be able to show the truth of what’s going on in their minds.
Paul’s emotions are shown when a Russian prisoner tries to communicate with him. Showing how even though soldier aren’t supposed to show emotions it still happens anyways. Paul understand that what he is doing is “wrong” because higher ups tell him that but to him he finds it pointless. That still doesn’t take away the fact that he has a mission and must stand for that mission even if he believes otherwise. Paul is overall seen as lovable guy that’s feelings are just too much to bare with and calms that he must keep punching through. At war things like such can put a soldier in a tuff spot like at some point those emotions blockage that were once put up.
The writer doesn’t fail to add the fact that the war has made Paul a whole different person. For example the part when he goes to the hospital showing his young life. He tries to be a child when he plays a prank on the nun which is a bit different from usually scene in the book. Paul also believes that the hospital is like a book for people that want to know about what war is and how it’s like to be in one. It seems like Paul innocence is being taken from him and now he must depend on the war to show him how he must live the rest of his life.
As Paul is talking about death one sees how religion takes apart in this story. He knows that he doesn’t have faith in the future but the one thing that he must have faith on is god. To the point where he asked for protection and hope that maybe just maybe he will probably make it through.
Sometimes people at worst possible situations try to religion in order to have some type of hope it really common in modern times as well. As well as hanging on to artifacts, in the text it states, “ on the right side of the meadow a large cannon latine has been built, a well planned and durable construction… for two hours we have been without getting up.” (47) They will always hold on to their mobile toilets because it might seem like nothing but to them it’s a representation of home.
As the book goes on it’s seems to become overload with sharp irony. It seems like the soldier are coming to their final limit. Paul in fact makes a comparison to the war as a disease. It feels as though they are in jail serving a life time sentence. They themselves are coming to a realization that they are more like objects then humans. Although they kinda see the possible ending to this all but their still is the fate that they might get killed no matter what. At some point one must see when is it time to request change.
Although this whole book the wordsmith portrays the soldiers as people who just fight. In the end it seems like it was for nothing, kinda taking back the readers that Paul and the others didn’t die when flinging but during the final moments of the war. When Paul dies he is symbolized as the lostgeneration, because he is the last one out of all the other classmates. Thus, representing the el image of a whole generation. Finishing off the book was a mysterious person unlike the rest which was typically Paul.
The writer haves off the idea as to who is the most significant person in the text which brings emotion to the reader. gives us no insight as to who this impromptu narrator is or at what point in time this reflection upon the story occurs, which helps to render the story timeless.
Not to mention the odd fact that the day in which Paul died was so relaxing and payed back. That when one can see the title meaning, the fact that the German army has calmed that day “All quiet on the western Front”.
Another thing that the last few paragraph demonstrate is the fact that the end of the War has brought much peace. In the end the reader is thrown off by this sudden death and how it could all just vanished.
Thus, the book shows a clear meaning of how the war ends and how it gets to even the best of us. Going back to how this book started and how could these young boys have to die for something that they didn’t wanted or the question that we all ask why did it have to happen to them.
The Harsh Realities Of War
The harsh realities of war force soldiers to undergo drastic personality transformations making them feel disconnected from their previous way of life. The war separates them from their past both physically and psychologically. In his novel All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque uses books, poplar trees, and butterflies to illustrate the life altering effects that the horrors of war impose on the soldiers, their perception toward these elements changes as they become transformed by its reality.
One of the important elements in the story that underscores the changes that the war imposes on the soldiers is books. Paul and his schoolmates lose their strong affinity for books due to their exposure to the reality of the atrocities of war. At the beginning of the book, Paul introduces his classmates, M??ller, who still carries his school textbooks with him, [and] dreams of examination (Remarque 4). At this point of the story, M??ller still maintains a strong affinity to books that have educated him into becoming an intellectual. By visualizing about examinations, M??ller maintains his civilian identity, and has not faced the reality of the war.
Later in the story, Paul returns to his home and as he encounters his collection of books in his room, he wants that quiet recapture again and the same powerful, nameless urge that [he] used to feel when [he] turned to his books (Remarque 83). Paul realizing his transformation, longs for the old days when he found comfort in the content of the books had to offer for him. The realization that he no longer connects to his books, illustrates that Paul has lost his civilian’s identity which has transformed into that of a soldier. The vivid realities of the war the soldiers are experiencing deeply sever their strong connection with books.
In their fight for survival, another important element of their past, the poplar trees, take on a different purpose. When dreaming about his past, Paul vividly recalls a line of old poplars by a stream [he] loved them dearly, and the image of those days still makes [his] heart pause in its beating (Remarque 60). Paul reminisces about his childhood, creating a clear image of his strong feelings towards the poplar trees which held his fantasies.
His pleasant memories of the poplar, allow him to maintain a fragile connection to his previous life. As the realities of the war set in, the poplars take on a different purpose, Paul describes, there are four more batteries of nine-inch guns to the right of the farm, and behind the poplars they have put in trench-mortars (Remarque 51). In contrast to his dream of the poplars, the trees have now become part of the war. The trees are no longer held Paul’s fantasies, as they have become associated with the weaponry of war. Poplar trees are now another way to illustrate how the harsh realities of war are beginning to take hold of the soldiers’ consciousness.
Paul’s perception of butterflies that once brought him joy also become altered into the symbols of death. While Paul is describing the war setting and circumstances as being more appealing than he had imagined, he focuses his attention on the white butterflies and how the white butterflies flutter around and float on the soft warm wind of the late summer (Remarque 7). His description of his surroundings, which include the butterflies are an attempt to make the war seem like a positive situation. Before going up to the frontline, Paul sees the butterflies as a sign of hope. However now that the soldiers are in the frontline, the description of the butterflies take on a different tone, There is not a plant nor a flower in miles. [The butterflies] settle on the teeth of a skull. (Remarque 63). As a juxtaposition to the previous description of the butterflies, they become part of the war. The symbol of the butterflies has transitioned from hope to death. As with the other symbols in the book, the butterflies take on a much darker meaning and become devoid of hope.
One of the strongest influences in the lives of Paul and his comrades, their love of books, becomes meaningless as a result of the war. Another important connection to their past, the poplar trees change from pleasant memory of Paul’s childhood into another weaponry of war. The butterflies also undergo a transformation as they change from invoking hope to an image of death. War has devastating effects on the people who are called on to fight for their country; even if they manage to survive, they are no longer the same individuals as they started out.
Some Strange And Melancholy Way
“We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a wasteland.”It is common knowledge that war is physically destructive and treacherous. It is common knowledge that soldiers all around the world perish daily. In Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, a new aspect of war is introduced.
What lies after combat, death, and loss is most tragic of all; life after the war. This historic war novel takes place during The Great War, World War I. German Soldier, Paul Bäumer, narrates from his standpoint as he enters the war as an eager eighteen-year-old.
Throughout the story, he experiences a profound bond with his comrades, a bond broken only by death itself. Although Paul does not live to return home to his family, read his books again, nor pursue his dreams prior to the war, he has already been desecrated by the image of fallen friends and even enemies. Surviving the terrors of war does not set soldiers free, but makes them as unlucky as their fallen brothers. Shockingly, one of the most unsettling worries for the young soldiers was returning home after the war. Paul, along with his comrades, was rushed into combat at an early stage in his life.
When comparing his life to older soldiers, Paul expresses, “…for the generation that grew up before us, though it has passed these years with us here, already had a home and a calling; now it can return to its old occupations, and the war will be forgotten” (294). Due to the men joining the army right after they finished high school, they did not have time, nor the opportunity to begin life outside of education, as the older generation did. Instead of starting a family, continuing school, or finding a steady job, the men are rushed off into combat.
Without a previous life before the war, the men notably have nothing to look forward to. The war becomes their life, the only life they have ever known. Therefore, when they return from the fiery of the fronts, they find themselves more alone than ever before. Another way war destroys minds is through the death of a fellow comrade. The everlasting bond between soldiers is described best by Paul when he declares, “They are more to me than life, these voices, they are more than motherliness and more than fear; they are the strongest, most comforting thing there is anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades” (212).
Death can tear people apart; death can also bring people closer. In All Quiet on the Western Front, the soldiers, despite the suffering and loss, develop an unbreakable bond. Whether it is the brutal training with Corporal Himmelstoss, a ruthless man who trains the soldiers, or the terrors of machine guns, grenades, and poison gas, the men are with each other through everything. In fact, they are all each other have. This bond can be both key to survival and keeping sanity but it can also be deadly. When a fellow comrade perishes in battle, the men lose a brother, best friend, and soldier all at once. War is not solely about surviving, it is about surviving with others. A soldier’s mind, much like Paul’s when he loses Kat, his best friend, is forever damaged. No medicine nor time away from war can heal a soldier’s memory, no medicine nor time can heal a soldier’s mind. Not only are soldiers harmed by the death of comrades, but they are also slowly damaged by how normal death becomes. Death on the battlefield is inevitable, and in a sense, normal.
An orderly tending to Kemmerich’s fatal leg amputation reports, “…today alone there have been sixteen deaths- yours is the seventeenth. There will probably be twenty altogether” (32). In the midst of war, numbers replace lives. For every life lost, a number is added to a chart. Kemmerich was a comrade and friend to Paul’s squad. To the orderly, he was no more than the seventeenth death of the day. Perhaps it is easier for the men to cope with loss when death is habitual. However, it is not until after the war when each number is replaced with a life, an innocent and promising life. Dehumanization benefits the soldiers during the war when they need to barricade loss. Unfortunately, years after the war when men need it the least, dehumanization seizes one’s thoughts and holds them accountable for every life, every number, every man.
Those who consider themselves lucky for surviving war are truly fortunate. Not all soldiers have the belief to say surviving was lucky. Men find themselves lost with no life to return to post-war; war is their life and will continue to be. They find themselves struggling to cope with the loss of fallen brothers, and although they perished years ago, are still a vivid image in the veteran’s mind. Emotional disconnection paves the way for a ruinous impact on the soldier’s life. Slowly, and then all at once, without warning or guidance, every casualty visits the mind of a soldier. All Quiet on the Western Front explores bonds between comrades while giving insight into the effects on the soldier’s mental health. Remarque’s novel proves people can be destroyed by death before they are physically killed by death.
All Quiet On The Western Front: Reaction Journals
- 1 Chapter One:
- 2 Chapter Two:
- 3 Chapter Three:
- 4 Chapter Four:
- 5 Chapter Five:
- 6 Chapter Six:
- 7 Chapter Seven:
- 8 Chapter Eight:
- 9 Chapter Nine:
- 10 Chapter Ten:
- 11 Chapters Eleven and Twelve:
In the first chapter of All Quiet On The Western Front you are instantly introduced to the war. Despite being on break and everything seeming good as the soldiers feast, we later are introduced to the brutality of the war. However, before that we learn about all the characters.
They all are different in their own way, but together they have formed friendships. We also learn of the currency used. On page 2, after receiving rations, Paul Bauer states; I have exchanged my chewing tobacco Katczinsky for his cigarettes. This shows the bartering system the soldiers used, an element in ancient societies. The horrors are presented at the cooks shock when he realizes that despite cooking for 150 soldiers he will feed only 80. 70 soldiers had been killed. Later on, an example of how when experiencing the worst, even the simplest things become enjoyable is presented. The soldiers are immensely happy with simply being able to sit on a wooden box, on page 9 Bauer says; One could sit like this forever. The brainwashing in schools was presented as the soldiers recall how their teacher Kantorek convinced them to join and not joining would mean being looked down upon by society. Then he states how their teachers were their window to the world and they trusted them, but they simply misinformed them. When the first bombardment occurred they realized the true terrors of war. Next, they visit Kemmerich and have to lie to him about his treatment. He had his foot amputated, but his own friends had to act as if it didn’t happen not to worry him. After the visit they discuss and realize that Kemmerich will not make it. And the chapter ends on that note.
Chapter two begins with a recount of a poem Baumer has, but on page 19 he reveals how, Our early life is cut off and how war changes a young soldier. They can forget their life. We learn of how the constant death motivates Muller to steal Kemmerich’s boots as he will pass away and the infirmary staff will just take them for themselves. The youth of the soldiers has been taken away as death is so common to them that it does not faze them as much as an average adult in today’s society. Baumer then describes how the training completely changed them for the worse. He claims to have learned more from ten weeks in training than ten years at school and how they had done everything to knock the eagerness and enthusiasm out of the soldiers (pages 21/22). Also, how a braided postman should have more authority over us than formerly our parents (page 22) shows how disciplined the military is. Then Baumer shows how being under Himmelstoss he had to do very tedious acts because of how disciplined and strict a postman could become. It is an example of how power can go to ones head. It shows how totalitarian or autocratic governments can form. In order to keep their jobs the staff must be strict for the soldiers need to be trained to be ruthless. It shows how war can deprive humans of any humanity essentially. Throughout history we have seen terrible acts committed in war time by people who had been normal before the war. We then have to deal with Kemmerich saying that he will die and Baumer misinforming him. Baumer reminisces about his friendship with Kemmerich and how his death is different. As he dies, Baumer calls a doctor and the doctor does not even know who Kemmerich is as he has amputated five legs to-day(32) and how 17 deaths had already occurred in that day. The chapter ends with Baumer bringing Muller Kemmerich’s boots.
In chapter three, all of the dead soldiers are replaced by new soldiers and the social hierarchy is present as Baumer and his friends are older and have more power over the younger, new soldiers. The setting is very grim with the soldiers not even having proper beds and having to sleep in an abandoned factory. War has ravaged the area and we learn how during this period poverty was immensely present as an artilleryman says, You wont find so much as a crust of bread here (38). Kat eventually does get food for the soldiers, however it is due to his immense ability to attain items. Kat also begins to question certain aspects of training like why saluting is so important and practiced. This shows how when one is often alone with their thoughts they question everything. It is a reason why rebellions in history can occur and maybe Kat will rebel. In addition, Krupp and Kat bet a beer on an air fight. They simply bet on one’s life, showing how regular death is in WW1. The boys discuss how Himmelstoss let the power get to his head and explain it as that’s just the uniform (43). Being an instructor he essentially abuses power because he gains it all at once. The boys also discuss how it is human nature for one man to have power over another, showing that social hierarchies are human nature. The chapter was overall a discussion of the military and training.
Chapter four is all about sheer fighting. The roar of the guns makes our lorry stagger,(53) shows just how much weaponry was used in this war. Baumer describes how the earth is a soldiers friend during a bombardment as instinct forces you to the ground to avoid fire and for that moment the soldier has his face buried into the ground for his dear life. Beside us lies a fair-headed recruit in utter terror (61). This quote shows how a young adult who signed up for this war was terrified when he actually was in battle. The youth were brainwashed during this period to believe that war would not be so bad and joining the military was the standard. When Detering says, I tell you it is the vilest baseless to use horses in the war (64), a change in ideology through history is present. All through history horses were used, especially by the Mongols in war-time, and this was rarely looked down upon, but now it may be. The attacks in pages 66-67 have immense symbolism as the soldiers seek refuge in a graveyard. It shows how they are surrounded by death both figuratively and literally throughout the war. On page 68, there is true suspense as the soldiers must brave a gas attack. Baumer recounts seeing the terrible things gas-attack patients went through and fears for his own life. It shows the struggle soldiers often had knowing that one mistake in putting on their mask could cost them their life. The graveyard is a mass of wreckage. Coffins and corpses lie strewn about (70-71). This quote shows how bombardments in WW1 destroyed the earth.
In chapter five, the first signs of defiance are present. Tjaden argues with Himmelstoss and does not listen to his commands, directly disrespecting his superior. After Himmelstoss leaves, the boys discuss Tjadens potential punishment and bring up the fact that, Well, for the time being the war will be over so far as I am concerned, (83). This reminds me of when in eighth grade, while learning about WW1, we learned of the illusion that the war would be short with Wilhelm II saying that the German troops would be home before the Autumn leaves fell. The boys begin to feel homesick in my opinion as they think of life in peacetime, but eventually realize that their lives are not planned out and what they learn in school is useless because it did not help them in the war. I found it interesting that through this book we are able to learn much more about the thoughts of these soldiers than we would in a classroom reading a textbook. Albert sums it up with, The war has ruined us for everything, (87) and Baumer says, We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces, (88). These quotes are very powerful as they show how the soldiers are just teenagers who still haven’t planned their lives and have already experienced terrible things.
In chapter six, we learn of the German army’s fading morale because of worn out weaponry. This is often a deciding factor in war and could have led to the eventual German loss in WW1. The German military is beginning to crumble as the English have better weaponry and the trenches are in worse condition, showing other causes to the Central Powers’ eventual loss. One of the striking aspects of this novel is the descriptiveness of the mental aspects of war. Following a bombardment Paul Baumer describes the scene in the parapet, saying, One lies down in silence in the corner and eats, the other, an older man of the new draft, sobs, (106). Another soldier goes insane with Baumer saying, The first recruit seems actually to have gone insane. He butts his head against the wall like a goat, (111). The soldiers are shell shocked and mentally destroyed, it is worse than physical injury. In addition to fighting other soldiers, they must deal with rats who gnaw at all of their food. These rats may spread disease as they have done so in history (Ex: Black Plague) and make this war worse. Days later a wounded soldiers cries can be heard. The soldiers must find him as the cries pain them, however it is very difficult as they cannot tell the direction. For two days they hear his cries and they slowly get weaker as his mouth gets drier. It is a grim scene that shows how brutal this war was. The pressure to have the most soldiers in this war is evident when new recruits are sent and Baumer describes them as having had hardly any training and are almost more trouble than they are worth (129). Paul Baumer describes all the death and injury around him and shows how much the soldiers do not like the war. Even the very patriotic Himmelstoss refused to go out and fight at one point. The chapter ends with a powerful sentence, just Thirty-two men(136). The company started with 150 men in summer and now in autumn has only thirty-two left. Remarque emphasizes this point by repeating the number and ending the chapter with it, to show the constant death.
In recent parts of this novel, Baumer begins to think of how he’s changed mentally. I feel Remarque does this to enhance the realism of this book and show how war has psychological effects on a soldier. Paul Baumer says, Just as we turn into animals when we go up to the line, because that is the only thing that brings us through safely, (138-139). This quote reminded me of the book Lord of the Flies by William Golding because in that book several boys aged 6-12 are stranded on the island and the boys eventually turn savage like animals just to survive. Baumer essentially says that fighting in war is animalistic but must be done to survive. Baumer also says Life is short on page 139. Although this is a common phrase through history it prompted a web search of the life expectancy in Germany during WW1. In 1912 life expectancy was about 50, in 1918 about 30. This saying rings true especially for these soldiers. The boys meet three French girls as they are swimming in a river and sneak out to visit them that night. They must go at night for the river is guarded and nobody can cross. In the scene where they meet the girls, Paul Baumer appears to fall in love with one despite not speaking French. This is an important part of the book because Remarque takes a break from describing the grim aspects of Baumers story. Paul Baumer is given leave and returns home, at the sight of his sister and mother he is essentially paralyzed. He cries and eventually snaps out of it, showing how much he missed his family. As all seems great, we learn that his mother has been ill for months now and may have cancer, partially ruining this great moment for Baumer. What really ruins it is the realization that he essentially has no life outside of the military. He says on page 1688, I find I do not belong here, it is a foreign world. The place he used to call home is now so strange. On his return, he lies often to hide the true horrors of the war. He lies about the dangers to his mother and lies to Kemmerich’s mother saying that he died instantly and painlessly. This is done to not worry anyone and to even prevent Baumer himself from overthinking about the hardships he faces.
Paul Baumer is then sent to training camp before returning and with no real friends, he develops a connection with nature. It shows that in modern day society we don’t appreciate nature until it is the last thing to enjoy. Next to training is a Russian prison camp and this scene shows how Baumer recognizes that they are humans just like the Germans. It is designed for Remarque to show how these people like you and me are kept like animals, being forced to beg for food. He then shows how the soldiers’ lives are essentially controlled by the politicians and how with an order they can kill each other or befriend each other. I also learned about how military service has greatly changed, because Paul’s mother has cancer and an operation is needed, but Paul does not make any money, so his father must pay for it all. Despite sacrificing his life he does not get any money or benefits like present day soldiers.
Paul Baumer returns to the front and unites with his friends. Here they discuss many controversial topics like how if 20 or 30 people in the world had said no to the war it would have never started. Then they discuss how both them and the French want to protect their fatherland, so who is in the wrong. They discuss propaganda and how the German media makes it as if only the Germans are right and the others are wrong. On page 205 Tjaden asks, Then what exactly is the war for? This quote shows that the soldiers are fighting in a war they don’t understand, they are like the toys of leaders. Remarque masterfully builds suspense in a surveillance mission with Baumer needing to stay hidden. One quote that truly build suspense is, Then gradually I realize that to crawl in the right direction is a matter of life or death (214). This shows that Baumers life is on the line if he doesn’t stay hidden. During the same surveillance mission an opposition soldier falls into the trench Paul is hiding in and Paul stabs him to presumed death. The next morning Paul discovers that the soldier is just wounded not dead and dresses his wounds showing that we are all human and can care for each other. He is filled with guilt and remorse, actually witnessing the man die as a result of his hands (and knife). On page 223 Paul says, If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Despite being opposing soldiers, all these soldiers are experiencing the same things and if they weren’t fighting a war they could be friends. Remarque wants to show that wars are humans vs. humans, not one country vs. another. Paul is then rescued and tells his story including the part about the soldier he killed. His friends talk about it and relax him saying that it is a soldiers duty to kill the opposition.
In chapter ten, the boys are ordered to stay in an abandoned, bombarded village. This reminds me of all survival movies, books and video games as the boys forage for beds and food, then set up in a concrete building. Albert and Paul are both shot as the French catch them in an open field evacuating a village. They are sent to the dressing station to have their wounds dressed and treated. Paul is in fear as he gets examined by the surgeon as, … the surgeons in the dressing stations amputate on the slightest provocation,(242). This shows that during this time period medical care wasn’t that great and it was difficult to properly treat wounds. Albert and Paul are later sent to a Christian hospital as Albert has a fever and Paul fakes one so they can stick together. Here we learn of something grim called the dying room. This is where patients who are about to die are treated, in a room with two beds. The horror and fear of this room is exemplified when one patient, … cries out feebly with his shattered lung: I won’t go to the dying room,(258). The patient with damaged lungs pained himself and used all his strength to resist going to that dreaded room. Albert becomes suicidal and makes attempts to commit suicide as his leg was secretly amputated which shows how these hospitals designed to help can cause other problems for soldiers. What Paul states is enough to summarize the book, I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow,(263). Paul heals and is then sent to the front lines, but he must separate from Albert who must fully heal then will be sent home.
Chapters Eleven and Twelve:
Paul discusses in depth how life or more specifically the war has changed the soldiers into dull animals so they could survive. He again repeats how they are surrounded by death and injury. He puts it brilliantly repeating several times how they are artificially primitive, to show how the war has shaped them to be more animalistic. Paul then tells a story of how one of his friends, Detering, went AWOL. They then heard that he was caught and, We have heard nothing more of Detering,(277). This shows that during this time period there was a fear factor for quitting the military, although it was much worse in this war for this military. Paul also brilliantly describes how Detering was homesick, but a court martial who has never experienced the war could not understand. Another of Paul’s friends, Muller, is killed and the boots he inherited from Kemmerich are given to Paul who will give them to Tjaden after (if he dies).
This shows that death can occur at any moment. Remarque repeats Summer of 1918-,(285) then describes the horrors of the war to show the bloodiest year and the most hopeless year for the Germans. He American efforts in WW1 are truly shown as in 1918 the Germans are outnumbered in soldiers, working weapons and even food. The Americans reenergized the British and helped them to win the war. Then one of the soldiers Paul respected and loved greatly as well as looked up to, Kat, died. Paul exhausted himself carrying Kat all the way to the dressing station only to realize that on the way Kat had been hit by a splinter in the head. The last page of the book is not told from the perspective of Paul Baumer. For Paul Baumer died in October of 1918. He had a calm expression showing that it was what he had wanted, and this adds up as beforehand he had discussed how his life was torn apart by the war. The name of the novel is obtained from a report of the day Paul fell, it was a quiet day on the entire front. It was All Quiet On The Western Front.
Enrich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front
Enrich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is a war story told by a 19-year-old named Paul Baumer. He and his friends were persuaded by the speeches of their teacher to enlist in the German army in World War I. Once enlisted, Paul and his friends realized that war is not honorable like their teacher said.
They’re in constant fear both physically and mentally. All Quiet on the Western Front portrays idealism versus reality on the front lines of war. The novel shows how a soldier’s mind slowly breaks down. Symbolism can be found in All Quiet on the Western Front to show the seriousness and brutality of war.
In All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque shows a transition from idealism to realism. In chapter one, Paul remembers his teacher who he once respected, Kantorek. Kantorek was a man with strong patriotic values. He made war sound honorable. Paul resents him and blames Kantorek for pressuring him and his friends into the army with his ideals without explaining the realities of the horrors of war. Paul along with his friends would find that war was death, that there would be a disconnect between home and war, constant fear, a lack of training, lack of food, and disease.
In chapter 11 of All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul compares the war to a disease like the flu and cancer. Like some diseases can’t be controlled, the soldiers no long control their thoughts. Their thoughts are controlled by daily activities. When they are in battle, their minds are blank slates in order to cope with the realities of war without losing their minds. The men have begun to identify as soldiers first and men last in order to survive the conditions of war fare. The soldiers in the Second Company have formed a close bond. Although these soldiers have conditioned their minds to be hard and cold, they begin to crack with the longevity of the war. The breakdown of Paul’s mind begins when Detering tries to go AWOL, but is captured, tried, and never seen again. Muller is shot in the abdomen and endures a long and painful transition to death. The quality of the food worsens, and food becomes scarce. When Paul’s dearest friend Kat is killed by a piece of shrapnel, it is seen that war has become a mental prison.
The novel includes a few pieces of symbolism. Kemmerich’s boots are passed from one soldier to another as each owner dies. Before Kemmerich’s death, he took the boots from the body of a corpse. Muller claimed the boots for himself as Kemmerich is dying. Paul gave the boots to Muller after he dies. Ironically, Paul received the boots when Muller dies. The boots symbolize the lack of respect for life during the war. The boots are more useful and durable during war than human life. Additionally, Paul is killed in October of 1918. The army report states, All Quiet on the West Front (Remarque p.296). The narrator described Paul’s face as calm, as though almost glad the end had come (p.296).
This phrase spoken by an unknown narrator in third person symbolizes lack of respect and care for the soldier’s lives. The narration is cold and disrespectful. The narrator doesn’t care enough to explain Paul’s death in detail. The narrator simply states that Paul fell.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Enrich Maria Remarque is a story that explains the realities of war through the eyes of a young solider, Paul Baumer. Paul soon realizes that the romances and ideals of war are quickly overshadowed by the realities of war. In order to deal with the realities, Paul finds himself in a mental prison to cope with warfare. The symbolism found in the novel strengthens the authors point of view against war because of its irreversible affects.
All Quiet on the Western Front Fictional Novel
All Quiet on the Western Front is a fictional novel written by Erich Maria Remarque in 1928 and it became an instant classic. He drew inspiration from his own life, being drafted into World War One and being wounded at the Battle of Flanders by British Artillery. Throughout the book Remarque uses vivid imagery and descriptive vocabulary to show the reader about the harsh grotesqueness of war and the seemingly inescapable amount of sorrow and problems created by this conflict.
Throughout All Quiet on the Western Front Remarque uses a broad array of language as the driving force of this book. It is because of the clear and depictive vocabulary that we, the reader, are able to see how being in World War One affected a entire generation. The story starts out with Paul Baumer and seven other soldiers he is serving with. At the beginning of the book they are mostly behind the front line with the exception of one time when they are sent to relieve the front.
When they return they all agree that it was quite, which is the last time most of them will be able to say anything is quiet. From this point forward the book changes as they are in the front lines more and more. The book is filled with numerous sounds of bombs being shot and blowing up, airplanes fighting in the sky and exploding, and the sounds of death.It’s unendurable. It is the moaning of the world, it is the martyred creation, wild with anguish, filled with terror, and groaning(Remarque 62). The use of vocabulary in All Quiet on the Western Front also helps us feel how Paul is feeling. Throughout the story his emotions and thoughts are constantly changing because of the constantly changing war. He often feels like the war has robbed his entire generation out of life. Instead of graduating and finding a useful occupation he has become a soldier who is only accustomed to death and killing which will not help him in the world outside of the war. He also feels as though his generation will not be able to cope with the atrocities of war because neither the generation before or after him will fight a war like his.
Finally, Paul often questions himself on whether the war will ever end and if he will make it out alive. From the middle of the book ,after his visit home on leave, his mood changes from being gloomy and feeling the he will not be able to escape the unending war to the end of the book when he feels like he might be able to survive the war because he feels the war is ending soon. However, he is unable to as he dies one month before the Armistice that would end the war is signed. He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to a single sentence: All quiet on the western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come(Remarque 296).
In conclusion, Remarque??s classic novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, used extremely descriptive vocabulary that helps the reader understand and feel the struggles of the First World War. While also bringing awareness to the mental problems created by it. All Quiet on the Western Front is a very descriptive book that uses Remarque?› own style to create very grotesque yet moving novel.
The Author Paints The Picture
In the book, All Quiet on the western front. The author paints the picture of a young serviceman named Paul Baumer and a few of his friends that enroll into the German army full of patriotism and pride but are unaware of the effects that World War One will have on them.
For Paul Baumer and his friends, it doesn’t take them long to realize what they’ve gotten themselves into. After a two-week stint on the battlefront, Paul and his army company only made it back to base with eighty out of the one hundred and fifty men that they started with after being attacked on the last day of their mission. It all began to go downhill for Paul and his friends from there, after losing one of their friends (Joseph Behm) early on in the war to a gunshot wound to the eye.
They begin to grow hatred for their old schoolmaster Kantorek, as they feel that he was the one who guided and pressured them into joining the army and now they’re having to go through the scary transition from school to war at nineteen years old. But they couldn’t put all the blame on Kantorek for their pledge to join the army. It was mainly due to the massive outbreak of nationalism going on at the time where young men felt pressured into joining the army or else being somewhat excluded from society if they didn’t join.
A little later on in the book, Paul begins to explain that for all the young serviceman that joined the army including himself that it feels as if their lives have been cut off from them because they were just beginning the best times of their life. And goes on to say that at least the older men who are in the army have wives, families, jobs to look forward to if they make it back home alive. At this point, the war has taken control of the young soldiers’ minds mentally, making them question what the end may be since they feel they don’t have much to live for besides going back home to their parents.
To these soldiers, this war is not for them. Meaning that they feel like there shouldn’t even be any armies in the first place. Kat, one of Paul’s friends, even said: Give’em all the same grub and all the same pay and the war would be over and done in a day (Remarque 41). And Kropp, on the other hand, believes that a declaration war should be a popular festival where the ministers and generals of the two countries fight it out with clubs dressed in their underwear.
As the men got together to discuss what life will be like after the war is over. Albert went on to say that The war has ruined us for everything (Remarque 87). For Paul and all of his friends that are around the same age, they are confused and are lost with the fact that they have no idea what’s to come for them in the future if this war is ever over.
After the long vigorous battle with the French in the trenches, Paul is starting to feel sorrow as he realizes the toll that this war has put not only on him but his friends. And that his life before the war and his desires for the future will never come true now because his life has been ruined by the trenches. While this war in the trenches was coming to an end, Paul is now all alone as he is the only one still alive out of his comrades from his platoon. From the start, these young men knew that the horrors of this war were going to take over their lives. Both mentally and physically.
In this novel, the author portrayed a group of the young serviceman that joined the German army at the age of nineteen and were thrown into a war that they didn’t want it any part of. But decided to join the army due to the pressure from the rise of nationalism in the country and from their schoolmaster. Throughout their battles in the trenches, Paul and his friends feel as if they lost everything that they once had and the world that they were once living in before they joined the army is gone as well.
Told By Erich Maria Remarque
Based on the story told by Erich Maria Remarque, the stories about the war then eventually being in the war ruined these soldier’s life before they even died. The major them that can be found in the book is brutality. Those events are praised out throughout the book.
The novel centers on a young German soldier, Paul Bume and his experiences throughout a period of World War I. One of the major themes found in the novel was the difficulty for the soldiers to revert to their civilian life after having experienced extreme combat during the war. One of the quote told by the author refers to how these man’s lives were drastically change, and even those who survived the war were still affected by it (2).
This internal comment made by Paul B?¤ume the main character of the novel, entirely explained how each of his fellow classmates, friends, and soldier left about them being in the war.Nationalism can be defined in many ways, however, in this book the author refers to nationalism as belonging or even loyalty. At the Beginning of the novel, we read that Paul Baumer and his classmates had volunteered to enlist in the war. However, what really happened was Their schoolmaster Kantorek, their parents filled their head with lies which glorified the war. During those time, not enlisting in the war would be cowardly, sort of like you were Turing your back on those who need you the most, your country.We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war. (42) all their life goal changed their aspiration and desire to become somebody, or even find somebody.
This novel sets out to enfaces war as it was experienced, replacing the romantic picture of glory placed by their parents and teacher with a decidedly unromantic vision of fear, meaninglessness, and butchery which was, in fact, the reality. Paul B?¤ume is the main character of the novel. Throughout the novel, he is forced to mature for his safety, which eventually deeply affected him as a person.The author refers to Paul and his friends as the lost generation. Young men who went straight out of school into the war. There were many incidents, killing, sickness and many lives were lost.
As a result, Paul like many others learned to detached themselves completely in order to stay san and survive. One quote that stood out to me while referring to the struggles they faced during the war was Paul statement regarding his friend Albert Kropp. He says, witnessing his friend death was devastating, but after seen death all around you get used to it (128). Because All Quiet on the Western Front is set among soldiers fighting on the front, one of its main focuses is the ruinous effect that war has on the soldiers who fought it.At some point, Paul said that because of all they seen, done they aren’t young kids anymore (42). To me this kind of fell like out of the blue the world had stop and suddenly all they knew about the world and themselves had to change, they were no longer just eighteen years old but they were soldiers. The irony is that they consider themselves adults because of their experiences rather than youths.As time go on and Paul returned home, he was incapable to image his life without the war.
Even his mom who he was close with didn’t feel as connected to him anymore he became incapable to speak with her. He also found that he didn’t belong anymore even though the town hadn’t change. He even states that he feels he doesn’t belong anywhere anymore (79). Paul continue saying that at his age twenty years old, yet he doesn’t know anything about life (125) This quote stood out to me because it summed up what the impact the war left on the soldier, although some lived they were dying inside. All they knew after the war was, violence, fear, and despair. At time Paul also felt frustrated with his father, he often asked questioned about his time during war. He’s answer would always be that you can’t talk about such things.
This quote told by Paul’s comrade to felt applied to everyone. now as time had went on he realized that Paul was just like him (106) I think at time we as individual or even the society we need in today pressure’s individual to participant in all sorts of activities they otherwise wouldn’t. this could be gangs, bullying, theft, or perhaps even murder or assault. But in the end, I think we realize that those people we pressure are just people like us and we could also be them.
In the novel All Quiet On the Western Front
In the novel All Quiet On the Western Front, author Erich Maria Remarque describes the flat character Kantorek to emphasize the round character Paul B?¤umer’s negative feelings about fighting in the war. By only showing ideas of gaining honor Kantorek is fighting for the fatherland, an abrupt contrast is made of advertised ideas and publicly of the war and the view of the soldiers in the war. Because of nationalistic propaganda from the people back home, just like Kantorek the regular citizens saw the war as heroic and exciting.
In the mean time soldiers are survivalist and weakened by the fighting of war. This divergence indicates how the soldiers feel betrayed by the wrong ideas of fighting in war.
In the beginning of the book, Kantorek writes a letter to the boys claiming that they are the iron youth. The difference is a statement of strength. The iron youth phrase is employed by Kantorek to say thanks to the boys for enlisting in the war. It’s very loyal to the country, because he indicates that the people back home are proud of the men that are fighting in the war. Born and raised in their hometown Germany must be very strong like metal. Although, the iron youth don’t feel strong at all when Remarque writes, Suddenly little Kropp throws his cigarette away, stamps on it savagely, and looking around him with a broken and distracted face, stammers Damned shit, the damned shit!’ (Remarque 18).
When saying phrases like broken and distracted face, and little Kropp. Little makes Kropp seem like a small boy, and has a weak meaning. Remarque explains how the soldiers are not the brave, confident soldiers that Kantorek explained them as. Broken and distracted suggest that the soldiers are not heroic but that regular citizens see them as boys and men who have all are going through the hard, tragic war together.
Later in the book, Kantorek’s constant preaching is more described when Paul thinks, During drill-time Kantorek gave us long lectures until the whole of our class went, under his shepherding, to the District Commandant and volunteered. I can see him now, as he used to glare at us through his spectacles and say in a moving voice: Won’t you join up comrades?’ (Remarque 11). Instead of warning anyone about the dangers and what war would do to you, Kantorek talked to his students about how great it is to fight for the fatherland. He made all of his students volunteer for the war because he loved the honor of war so much.
Although, Kantorek’s speeches about the war he loved, turned out to be much different then what the students thought of it. Paul states, There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced that there was only one way of doing well, and that way theirs. And that is just why they let us down so badly, (Remarque 12). The differences in his tones show how different their two attitudes are. Won’t you join up comrades? is such a nicer tone then Let us down so badly. The first phrase feels all happy and hopeful while the second phrase is all mean and regretful. The contrast between Kantorek’s nationalistic phrases and Paul’s actual reality of war is what makes him feel so let down. He ends up with the dirty reality of trench warfare when he thinks and hopes its going to be a honorable war.
The difference in the war described by the propaganda versus the real war is brought up again when Paul realizes, While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that the duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we knew that the death-throes are stronger. Compared to Kantorek preaching about how amazing and great the war is, Paul’s statement is much different. He knows first hand that the death-throes, are way more important then the country. This quote shows that one of the men would rather be alive and stay alive then die with honor. The idea if dying scares then so much more then even fighting in war, overall the death-throes are stronger.
Lastly in chapter ten, Paul thinks about the real horror of war and thinks this:
A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, one single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought when such things are possible. It must all be lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture-chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is. (Remarque 263)
This quote really shows how big of a toll war life can give, and how soldiers know it but don’t want to. Paul realizes this when he counts how many hospitals there are (hundreds of thousands). At this time war doesn’t sound like an honor at all, it just sounds like a horrible defeat. The sentence A hospital alone shows what war is, shows the difference between Kanorek and the soldiers. Kantorek always described them as the iron youth and believed that there was nothing better then fighting in the fatherland. Over all Paul thinks a hospital in the closest thing to a war. In a hospital people are dying every day, just like war.
This quote didn’t only highlight how Paul has lost hope of anything involving war, but also took many lives from the war. The quote how senseless is everything that can ever be written shows and explains that nothing will ever come close to compare the horror and awful consequences from the war.
Eternality of War
Perhaps nothing is more frequent in the pages of history books than wars. Since the beginning of time, men have fought to hold their ground and conquer more. Yet the images of war are not always the trumpeting, flag-flying, fresh-faced recruits that they are painted out to be. The reality of war is dark, desolate, and harrowing, with conditions detrimental to mind, body, and spirit. The realities of war and the terrors experienced there are documented and told by authors throughout time, including Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, Tardi’s graphic Goddamn This War!, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. What the three men allude to is the idea that perhaps the true brutes are not the ones on the defense, but the offense, and that the disease of imperialism and the contagion of power are what turns men into savages in the end.
The most graphic and raw depiction of the war is told by Jacques Tardi, who in his collection of drawings portrays a bitter and brutal state of perpetual violence. His short captions are paired with images of dismembered men and bloody faces, the worst of the quotes being “I’d have liked to see the wise guys right there, in the heart of the inferno: Joffre, the president, the Kaiser, the ministers, the priests and every last general. And my mother, too, for bringing me into this world” (Tardi 18). The cynicism and general weariness of the unnamed narrator leaks from every angle in the story, leaving nothing up to the imagination. The very definitive anti-war message the comic sends couples the horrors of the war with the mental scarring of the men who witnessed it.
Remarque approaches the war from the perspective of Paul Baumer, young, promising, full of the fire of his fellow friends and soldiers as they fight for their home country of Germany. Pumped with patriotism and nationalism, Paul and his friends soon realize that war is not what they expected, or even what they wanted; it is what they feared. The physical, emotional, and psychological stress forced upon the young men proves to them that patriotism and nationalism are but myths, some clichés to mask the actual terror of the war. The excerpt provided portrays a scene in which Paul and his friends visit Kemmerich, an old classmate and now-amputee. Muller, a “really quite sympathetic” character, asks Kemmerich for his boots, which obviously he’ll have no need for anymore (Remarque 20). This bitter but realistic scene painfully displays the loss of emotional morality through the brutality on the front. Though Muller meant no harm in asking for the boots, the scene simply proves the survivalist nature of the men and the dog-eat-dog mentality they must have to survive. Corporal Himmelstoss, brutal, tyrannical, and strict, forces them to perform meager, demeaning tasks, like making and re-making beds, sweeping snow, crawling in mud on all fours, and bayonet-fighting with heavy iron rods (Remarque 23-25).
Though Himmelstoss is cruel, he teaches the naive men the reality of war without the rose-colored lenses of nationalism that they learned through in school. The scene about Kemmerich in the hospital is particularly poignant in showing man’s moral lineup still in the face of terror; Paul refuses to leave him alone, and holds him until he dies. This heartbreaking scene is swiftly made cold by the doctor, who says, “You know, to-day alone there have been sixteen deaths – yours is the seventeenth. There will probably be twenty altogether” (Remarque 32). Paul is sickened by the doctor’s carelessness, and collects his friend’s belongings. He unties his friend’s identification disc, and delivers the boots to Muller. This very brief scene of friendship and love is pulled away almost as quickly as it comes, strategically in Remarque’s writing to juxtapose the reality of the war with the naïveté and the innocence of Paul and the men on the front.
Marlow of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness experiences a similar rawness of death. Marlow is Conrad’s Paul in this story, honest, headstrong, but also cynical, skeptical, and weary. He travels in the Belgian Congo to find Kurtz, who he is told harbors great ideals and ability (Conrad 28). When he first sees Kurtz in the second part of the story, Marlow tells us that he is only ever referred to as “that man”, and never by name (51). His station, is “desolate”, and we quickly discover that Kurtz not some genius or guru, but in actuality a heartless megalomaniac, described by Marlow as “hollow.” As he dies he gives Marlow a packet of documents, one of which ends with the words “Exterminate all the brutes!” When he dies in the last part of the story, his last words are “The horror! The horror!” (116). His final moments exist in some vision that Marlow cannot see, in which Kurtz cries out in a look of “intense and hopeless despair.” When Marlow journeys to Kurtz’s home later on in the story, almost a year has passed since his superior’s death. The departed’s fiancée tells of her late lover’s talent, humanitarian works, political experience, and leadership qualities. Marlow lies to her and tells her that his last words were her name.
It is important to note that even through Kurtz’s power-hungry, bloodthirsty ways, he is the one that dies first. In his own station, there are severed heads on the fence posts, but his own body betrays him; he is the one that dies. He is ill with jungle fever, his own body conquered by the land he is trying to own. It is as if the land itself is fighting back because its people cannot. As Marlow comes into contact with people from Kurtz’s past, he is forced to doubt his own memories of the man, as the only things he is hearing are good. This brings to light the truth that war changes people. Perhaps Kurtz was this extraordinary man before he came to the Congo. However, it is also the exact theme that Conrad is trying to portray: that in the European perspective, interference in the African colonies was a good thing – humanitarian work, even – but if they saw the heads on posts, and the extreme brutality that is not only fostered but implemented by their people, Europeans would think differently of the entire situation.
Perhaps it is not a single person or an actual occurrence that forces these men to fight. Rather, they are driven by an extreme sense of duty towards their countries, pushed by an unseen force of patriotism that quickly fades and fizzles as the true horrors of war set in. The three different yet overlapping stories of Tardi’s narrator, Paul, and Marlow depict the dichotomy between the expected nature of war and the reality of it. Each provides a staunchly anti-war dialogue. Yet they are written in ways that avoid shining the spotlight on any particular person; note that Conrad’s novel takes place, not in a colony of his homeland England, but one of Belgium. This creates the exact absurdity and hypocrisy that he writes about: the idea that the true “brutes” are the white men in Africa, while not being specific enough to make British readers find parallels between themselves and the evils of the novel. Each author attempts to and succeeds in illustrating the fact that the real darkness and the real evils happened under European control, but far from European eyes.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. N.p.: n.p., 1899. Print. Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Tardi, Jacques, Helge Dascher, Kim Thompson, and Jean-Pierre Verney. Goddamn This War! Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics, 2013. Print.