All Quiet on the Western Front


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All Quiet on the Western Front

 

      Millions dead, tens of millions injured, for what?  For a petty

argument between two countries.  War is devastating to countries and most

indefinitely individuals.   Men can be left disturbed mentally, physically,

and socially for the rest of their lives.  Is this necessary?  Well maybe

you should decide after reading the next few paragraphs.  You can decide if

the war being fought is a war of dignity and glory as everyone would make

it out to be or if it was a battle of death and gore.  You maybe surprised

at what happens to men out there.

 

      Well it would be glorious to be wounded and or die for your country

right?  Well maybe if you were the one seeing everything from the outside

looking in.  If you were a soldier your outlook on war may be a little

different.  The physical ailments of the young men are terrible.  Some even

consider it lucky if you die.  For example, Remarque made it very clear

that he was aware of the pains men were forced to endure when he put Paul

and Albert Kropp in the hospital.  Paul was going on leave and asked Albert

if there was anything that he could get for him and Kropp said, "A gun."

Paul showed his disapproval of this idea and Albert said something to the

degree of I would rather die then live without a leg.  Another example was

when Kat was wounded by the bomb that went off while he was delivering

supplies to the men on the front.  Kat could not even walk.  Then while

Paul was taking him back to the First Aid center the man said, "He's stone

dead."  Paul was so oblivious to what was going on that he simply replied,

"No, he's just fainted."  When he looked at his hand and found a bullet

wound in the back of Kat's head he was so stunned that he could not even

think or see straight.  In the real world people would leave their homes

cheerful young men and return tattered worn cripples.  Men would return

with missing appendages.  Some would return without legs.  Others would

come home without sight or unable to breathe on their own.

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  They may be

deaf when they return but no one really fully realizes the horrors of war

until they experience it for themselves.

 

      Have you ever heard the word "shell shock".  Many people have and

really don't know exactly what it means.  Well I'll tell you what it means.

This horrible condition is one in which you no longer can think correctly

or maintain a normal state of mind.  One case of shell shock was reported

after WWI.  A man who was left helpless after a bomb was dropped and killed

everyone around him.  He was left to remain with his dead friends until the

medic reached them, which took several days.  After this incident he would

drop to the floor and scramble under his bed whenever he heard the word

bomb.  He did it automatically.  His brain just told him to.  Another such

example is when in Remarque's book the new recruit is crying and rocking

back and forth on his bed.  He would not go to battle.  The others yelled

at him but he would not or should I say could not move.  His mental state

was unstable.  The effects of war on ones behavior mentally can be just as

devastating as any physical injury.  In the book All Quiet On the Western

Front Remarque shows how even Himmelstoss, a corporal, can be affected by

the war.  He would not move out of the trench and even after Paul yelled,

"You swine" and many other things he would not go.  Paul was hitting him

and he would not move.  Until he heard the command from a higher officer he

would not move.  Another case of mental instability was a man who survived

WWI.  Every time someone would pull out an officer's red hat he would

tremble and scream.  He would stop as soon as it was gone but he could not

handle the memories of war.  Men would return home from war and not

recognize any one including their own mothers and families.

 

      The final aspect of war that I will talk about is the social aspect.

 In Remarque's book he had their teacher Kantorek telling the kids lies.

"You are the Iron Youth," he would say to them.  Paul and his comrades

would be excited and ready for war.  They went and enlisted thinking that

they would return war heroes and the town would glorify them.  When they

reached the front they realized that war was much different from what they

were led to believe.  Paul also realized that after a war like this he

would not be able to return to society ever again and fit in.  Soldiers go

home and don't know how to react to society.  They have seen so much death

and violence that they don't know how to react to life and friendship.

Life is hard for them.  The imagined image of a war hero is thrown out and

the void is filled with a life of hardships and trials.

 

      Does war still sound like a logical solution to the problems

between two countries?  You decide.  I think that Paul, Kat, Kropp, Tjaden

and the rest of the characters in All Quiet on the Western Front would

agree with me and say that it is not.  War just leads to death and injury.

There is no excuse for war and there never will be.  As for glory and honor,

well ask a man without legs about the glory and honor that he received when

he returned.  Or ask a man who can't hold a job because he can't fit in if

he found honor and glory.  Well you know what they say, "Dulce et Decorum

Est."


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