The hardships of the first World War are present in the novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. He demonstrates the struggles and hardships that a typical soldier of that war must endure to stay alive or just keep his sanity. There are many factors that can attribute to the problems the soldiers had to face. First were the raging emotions the soldiers felt during the war. They felt patriotism in the beginning and then slowly it broke down to heartache and despair. Another key factor that made this war particularly stressful for the soldiers was the horrible trenches in which they had to reside in. They were full of germs and feces and also reeked of dead bodies. The third and most tragic factor was the heartache the soldiers had to suffer when they saw their friends being mutilated by heavy artillery used by the opposing forces. The war had raging emotions, terrible trenches, and numerous unbearable deaths.
First off the war was filled with numerous emotions which were too much to handle for many soldiers. At the beginning of the war, the soldiers felt glorious and proud that they would be defending the honour of their country. After they saw the terrible sights of the war they quickly changed their minds. Their feelings of patriotism and pride quickly turned to fear and despair. Due to all of this chaos soldiers seemed to lose their sense of humanity. “ …Woe betide anyone who fell into the hands of the enemy alive; all sense of humanity had disappeared. Soldiers, wounded, stretcher-bearers- a distinction was no longer made…” A quote by Louis Barthas a soldier in the war. This quote shows how people had lost their sense of mercy and humanity when faced with a soldier of an opposing side. This is true of many soldiers, but not all. When Paul Baumer was forced to stab and kill a French soldier he felt upset and heartbroken after he read through the man’s pocketbook. The soldiers also felt afraid of whether they would survive the next attack by the enemy. The chances were so high for death that there were bodies literally floating all around. “…Numerous people still young and filled with hope had to lay down their lives here- their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves in cemeteries. A German officer in a letter written to his parents said this. It shows how numerous and awful the deaths were. These emotions cause many people to suffer, but another aspect of this war that caused suffering was the trenches that the soldiers were forced to reside in.
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The trenches were basically hell. They were swamp-like and filled with dead bodies and human feces. A French captain who fought in the war put it best when he said, “…I have just returned from the most terrible ordeal I have ever witnessed. […] Four days and four nights-ninety-six hours-the last two days in ice-cold mud-kept under relentless fire, without any protection whatsoever except for the narrow trench, which even seemed too wide. […] I arrived with 175 men, I returned with 34 of whom several had half turned insane.” This is said by a person who lived in the trenches and obviously had to deal with the hardships of living in them. Another quote by Henri Barbusse describes the trenches in the same manner. “…A network of pits in which the nightly excreta are piling up. The bottom is covered with a swampy layer from which the feet have to extricate themselves with every step. It smells dreadfully of urine all over…” That also shows the disgusting conditions of the trenches. The trenches were very hard to bear for a soldier, but a very heartbreaking aspect of the war for the soldiers was the loss of their friends and fellow soldiers.
The most awful aspect of the war was the numerous deaths suffered by the sides of the wars. The deaths were very gruesome ranging from gas to heavy artillery just blowing a person to pieces. The casualties were so high there were bodies literally stacking up in the trenches and in other areas. The hard part was the feelings the soldiers had walking around and seeing these bodies sometimes belonging to their friends, and just thinking that that could be them. The bodies were filthy with maggots and disease and they created unhealthy living conditions. The way they died was also very gruesome they were blown to bits, gassed and had their insides deteriorate and cause a slow and painful death. Even if you don’t die at first, some typical wounds would turn to fatal ones due to faulty hospital conditions. An example would be at the beginning of this novel when Baumer’s company goes to battle with 150 men and only returns with 80 men. A French soldier said, “…My battalion comes straight from the land behind the front-lines the men are exhausted and did not sleep. The battalion consists of 800 men-the battalions that we are here to replace lost 800 men…” That shows how many and how quickly lives were lost in this war. A soldier also once said, “one of the trenches is so filled with wounded and dead bodies the attackers had to use the parapet in order to be able to move forward.” This shows that there were stacks of bodies that were piling up so high that the attackers couldn’t get around. A German officer tells how gruesome the bodies looked in this quote, “…the numbers of defectors increases, the front soldiers become numb by seeing bodies without heads, without legs, shot through the belly, with blown away foreheads, with holes in their chests, hardly recognizable flab’s, pale and dirty in the thick yellow mud, which covers the battlefield. That shows how grouse the deaths were during the war.
The war had raging emotions, terrible trenches, and numerous unbearable deaths. These paragraphs have shown why the soldiers’ feelings of patriotism and pride quickly diminished as they saw what they had gotten themselves into. This war is an example of what humans as a species cannot be if we plan to survive the inevitable test of time. In the novel, we read we saw how typical teenagers like my classmates and me could be turned into killers by one simple act of signing an enlistment paper. We also saw how a whole generation was lost due to the greed of others. This war proves that people can’t resort to wars every time we have problems with others. This book seems to be a tragedy that could have and should have been avoided. This war showed to be a complete disaster for all sides, due to the enormous losses suffered by both sides.
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