Reflection On All Quiet on The Western Front: Opinion Essay

May 18, 2022 by Essay Writer

“Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, gas, tanks, machine-guns hand grenade ––words, words but they hold the horror of the world,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque was published in 1929 in Germany. The novel tells the story of Paul Baumer and his friends’ treacherous journey in the war which starts with them getting influenced to enlist into the war and them realizing that war/death is all that they know. My detailed understanding of context has influenced my response to the cruelty of gas, the innocence of youth, and the effects of war on soldiers.

My detailed perception of the context has influenced my response to gas. I didn’t know how terrifying and horrible gas is. With my new perception of the context I see that gas killed multiple people in horrible ways. There were 4 main gases used in world war 1 (tear gas, Chlorine, mustard gas, and phosgene) in total around 90,000 soldiers were killed by gas, and 185,000 were injured from gas. Of those 90 000 soldiers 85% were killed by phosgene. Symptoms of phosgene exposure are coughing, watery eyes, blurred vision, shortness of breath, nausea, and death. “My lungs are tight, they breathe always the same hot, used up air, the veins on my temples are swollen. I feel I am suffocating,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. At this moment in time in the novel, the German soldiers are getting gassed and this is how Paul Baumer reacts. This quote shows how excruciating the effects of gas is. My detailed understanding of the context has influenced my response to gas.

My detailed knowledge of the context has influenced my response to the innocence of youth. I now know that numerous young soldiers fought in the war and that most of them died, got injured, or would be scared. All Quiet on the Western Front is an example of how fragile innocence is and how it can be corrupted. Paul and his friends are only teenagers just out of school but fought in the war. Since they were so young compared to other soldiers, they didn’t have much of a childhood or anything to look forward to when ’they get out of war’ because their life had only just begun. In Britain it is estimated that 250,000 soldiers under the age of 18 fought in the first world war. Of those around 10% of them died and the rest of them would be scarred for life. “Youth! We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. They have experienced so much death and horror from war that even though they are young they act older than they are. “All the older men are linked up with their previous life. They have wives, children, occupations, and interests, they have a background which is so strong that the war cannot obliterate it,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. They feel that when you are older and join the war you have lived and therefore have something to cling onto when in the front. Whereas they are young and have not done too much and have not much to cling onto. “We young men of twenty, however, have only our parents, and some, perhaps, a girl,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. The innocence of Paul and his classmates is corrupted by Kantorek (their schoolteacher) and the older generation, who encourages them to enroll in the war. ‘But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs…. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. At school Kantorek was a respected authority figure so to see that he had manipulated them was so wrong. “The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. Knowing how the war affected underage soldiers made me feel sorry for what Paul and his classmates went through.

My understanding of the context has influenced my response to how the war affects the soldiers. With my new knowledge of world war 1 I know that around 8 million soldiers died and around 21 million soldiers got injured. Of the 40+ million soldiers around 12% of them died or got killed. Soldiers have seen death daily whether it would be from the opposition or a mate. All the death that they face disturbs them mentally. The chances of getting injured were 36%. “But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. The soldiers know that they might die and that it could happen any day by chance. “they can take nothing from me, they can take nothing more. I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear,” Remarque, E.M. (1929) All Quiet on the Western Front. The war has taken everything from Paul he has nothing left, all his friend has died. Through Paul’s emotions I symptomize with soldiers and what they go through.

The cruelty of war is shown throughout this novel. Erich Maria Remarque’s novel questions why we even go to war because of how inhuman it is to kill another human. My comprehensive perception of the context of All Quiet on the Western Front impacts my response to the cruelty of gas, the innocence of youth, and the effects of war on soldiers.

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