At the beginning of the 20th Century, the great powers of the world engaged in the largest war concerning deaths in modern times. This war, which is often called the Great War, or World War I, had serious consequences that have affected our world today a great deal. Many great novels were written this century dealing with the Great War. One book, All Quiet on the Western Front, has been considered a classic and possibly “the greatest war novel of all time.”
The story follows the adventures of a German soldier, Paul Baumer, from the time he enters the military to his unfortunate death at the end. I believe this book portrays the Great War in a very accurate manner. This book could possibly be used to illuminate discussion about the Great War because of the past history of the author, the daily experiences that the soldiers encounter, and the effects of the war had on the soldier’s personal lives.
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The war novel All Quiet on the Western Front could be used as a source to discuss the Great War because of the past history of the author. Erich Maria Remarque, the author, was a World War I veteran of the German army. He was wounded five times in combat during the course of his time in the war. Remarque fully experienced what war was really like. His novel can probably be recognized as a highly autobiographical piece of literature.
The characters in his book went through many of the same trials and tribulations that he did while being a German soldier in World War I. For this reason, I believe it is very rational to assume that All Quiet on the Western Front could be used as a source for discussing the Great War. Remarque saw the battles first hand and possibly incorporated much of his own life as a soldier in the book.
Another reason that the novel All Quiet on the Western Front could be used as a source to discuss the Great War is because of the daily experiences that the soldiers encountered in the book. The life of a soldier in the Great War was a constant avoidance of death. The characters in the novel dealt with such problems also. This continuous evasion from death caused people to become very unstable mentally and physically, in the book as well as in the actual war. Trench warfare, which was an important war strategy used, forced soldiers into horrendous conditions.
In the text of “Modern Europe,” the author, Merriman, states, “Persistent lice, mice, and enormous starving rats were…constant companions in the stagnant water of the trenches.” (pg.1046) In chapter 6 of the book Paul describes him and his company fighting off giant rats to protect their food. This is an evident similarity concerning the trench warfare in the book and in real life.
Furthermore, when Paul is in the hospital with Lewandowski recovering from his wounds, the hospital is forced to use paper bandages. This was at a late point in the war when Germany was at a loss of supplies for much of its military. The significance of this is that it showed that Germany was losing the war and such situations actually happen to the Germans at this point. The book can indeed be used as a source for the Great War because the soldiers had very similar trials and tribulations in their daily lives.
The war novel All Quiet on the Western Front could be used as a source to discuss the Great War because of the effects the war had on the soldier’s personal lives. The Great War drove many young men to insanity. In chapter 11, Paul’s good friend Detering saw a cherry tree blossoming one day. He picked one of the branches of the tree and took it with him because it reminded him of his home where cherry trees were abundant. Several days later he deserted the army and attempted to go home. He was later captured and never heard from again. Many times people would do irrational things because of the mentally straining factor of war.
Constant death, lack of food and supplies, bad weather, and never-ending bombings took their toll on soldiers from every side of the battle. Even after the fighting is over, soldiers still carried the burden of the war on them, in the book and in reality, respectively. Young men who enlisted in the army often never recovered from their horrific experiences.
They returned home with shattered minds and shattered bodies to insensitive civilians that looked at them as unpleasant reminders of the terrible war that they wanted to forget. Many times soldiers would come home and have difficulty finding enjoyment in things that used to be pleasurable. This was evident in the novel when several times when the soldiers reflected on their future lives and realize nothing would ever be the same.
The novel All Quiet on the Western Front can be used to illuminate and discuss the Great War because of the past history of the author, the daily experiences that the soldiers encounter, and the effects of the war had on the soldier’s personal lives. The Great War was utterly senseless.
Masses of human beings slew each other because of the decisions of a minority. Remarque rebelled from the classic, romantic view of war and showed what really went on. In general, that is why I believe this novel could be used as a source for discussing the Great War. It showed the brutal and sad truths of war.
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