Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is not about men, but of German soldiers and their hardships during World War I and how their attitudes changed throughout the war. “We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war”(p.88). This novel portrays the overwhelming effects and power war has to deteriorate the human spirit, scar physically, and scar mentally.
You start out leaving you’re home and family proud and ready to fight for your country, to toward the end of the war, you become tired and scarred both physically and mentally beyond description. At the beginning of the novel nationalist feelings are present through the pride of Paul and the rest of the boys. However at the end of the war, many come to the realization of how pointless and horrific war really is.
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All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel that greatly helps in understanding the effects of war. The novel best shows the attitudes of the soldiers before the war and during the war. Before the war, there are high morals and growing nationalist feelings. During the war, however, the soldiers discover the trauma of war. They discover that it is a waste of time and their hopes and dreams of their life fly further and further away. The remains of Paul Baumer’s company had moved behind the German front lines for a short rest at the beginning of the novel.
After Behm became Paul’s first dead schoolmate, Paul viewed the older generation bitterly, particularly Kantorek, the teacher who convinced Paul and his classmates to join the military. “ While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already that death-throes are stronger… And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone, and alone we must see it through.”(P. 13) Paul felt completely betrayed. “ We will make ourselves comfortable and sleep, and eat as much as we can stuff into our bellies, and drink and smoke so that hours are not wasted. Life is short.” (P 139) Views of death and becoming more comfortable with their destiny in the war became more apparent throughout the novel. Paul loses faith in the war each and every passing day.
Throughout the novel, it was evident that the war-scarred the soldiers permanently mentally. Everyone was scared to go to war when it started. Young recruits were first sent because the veterans knew they were going to come back dead. “When we run out again, although I am very excited, I suddenly think: “where’s Himmelstoss?” Quickly I jump back into the dug-out and find him with a small scratch lying in a corner pretending to be wounded.” (P 131) Even the big men like Himmelstoss are scared to go and fight. “He is in a panic; he is new to it too. But it makes me mad that the young recruits should be out there and he here.” (P 131) The soldiers were being crushed and seeing things get destroyed, but because they had detached themselves they thought they were able to handle it.
Although, as time went on he began to realize something wasn’t right. He tried to replace these feelings with pleasure, so he spent the night at the French girls’ house. After he just felt worse and unfulfilled. “…We are crude and sorrowful and superficial– I believe we are lost.”(P123) When Paul realizes that we are all brothers, the true mental struggle is seen. “ Comrade, I did not want to kill you…Why do they never tell us you are poor devils like us… and that you have the same fear of death…If we could just throw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother…” (p. 223-224). The apparent change in views on the war has become extremely apparent.
In a war, there is obviously apparent physical scars. As seen throughout the entire book, the destruction of war is great, on not only lives and property, but also on the human spirit. The young men in this book and of those of the times were subject
to physical torment. Eyes were blinded from such sights as, limbs being blown off, blood flowing everywhere, and innocent men dying in agony. When soldiers take shelter in the graveyard, bombs explode all around them; the living hide in coffins and the dead are thrown from their graves. The destructive power is so great that even the fundamental differences between life and death become blurred.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel that portrayed World War I as it actually was. There was no sugar coating whatsoever. It is able to show all aspects of the actual war and has left a clean-cut picture of just how horrific war actually is. The readers of this novel can now understand just why that there is really no true point to war. Whoever said that killing millions of people over pride and territory is not too bright. The novel began with pride and ended with unbearable agony.
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