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The U.S. casualties in the "Iraqi Freedom" conquest totals so far at about Sixteen Thousand military soldiers. During WWI Germany suffered over seven million. All Quiet on the Western Front is a historical novel written by Erich Maria Remarque. The novel focuses on a young German soldier and the predicaments he encounters in during his life on the front. The novel displays a powerful image to all of its readers and tends to have a long lasting effect on the way that they interpret war. All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel that encourages nations to consider the horrible hostilities that war brings on humans before entering into global conflicts. From his graphic imagery and his detailed description of character relationships, Remarque depicts the brutality of the war at the front.
Remarque uses a variety of techniques to display the gruesome affects that war has not only on soldiers but on the nation as a whole. One technique that Remarque uses is imagery. One example that shows the imagery that Remarque displays occurs in chapter six when Paul Baumer talks about what the French do to the German prisoners who carry bayonets that obtain a saw on their blunt edges: "Some of our men were found whose noses were cut off and their eyes poked out with their own saw bayonets. Their mouths and noses were stuffed with sawdust so that they suffocated" (Remarque 103). Remarque shows how horrible the opposing sides treated one another's prisoners. The details used make one think of how bad the war must be and how it changes one's perception of war. Another example Remarque uses to show the brutality of war is through the imagery of sound. In chapter four Paul talks about the paranoia everyone gets when they hear the loud death cries of the wounded horses at the front: "We can bear almost anything. But now the sweat breaks out on us. We must get up and run no matter where, but where these cries can no linger be heard" (Remarque 63-64). The soldiers at war can handle hearing the bombs and shells going off never ending at the front in a small tight trench, but they cannot bear the cries of the horses and become paranoid.
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Remarque tends to show the main character of the novel, Paul Baumer, changes his vision on life and his perspective of it through many examples. Through some dramatic experiences Paul's view on the war alters considerably. Paul transforms into a man in the novel and at one point in the novel he ends up risking his life for his best friend Katensky: "I sweat and my face is swollen with the strain of carrying. All the same I urge him to let us go on, for the place is dangerous" (Remarque 287). Katensky receives the wound to his knee and Paul tries his best to save him. Paul first met Katensky during the war and the experiences they went through in war bonded their friendship greatly for one another. Paul does everything he can to save Kat and finds the strength and courage to carry him a long ways out of the thick battleground to the nearest dressing station. Unfortunately to Paul's dismay, Katensky suffers a fatal wound to the head by a small splinter that inserted into his head at a weak section. Another part in the novel that Paul shows his character occurs when he is on leave at a training camp in his home town. The training camp happens to lie side by side with a Russian prison camp. Paul notices the agony and pain that the Russians must endure everyday and makes friends with some of the men: "I take out my cigarettes, break each one in half, and give them to the Russians. They bow to me and light the cigarettes" (Ramarque 194). Paul has great sympathy for the prisoners and tries to make their horrible lives the least bit less difficult to go through and they praise him for his kind deed. Paul sees how brutal life is for prisoners of war and tries to make it a little less painful than it already is.
In All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque shows some great symbolism in the novel that shows what war does to men and how they change during a period of death or survival. One symbol Remarque uses takes place in the beginning of the novel when the men fight the rats for food in the trenches at the front: "It grows, now it is the sound of many feet. Then the torches switch on and every man strikes at the heap, which scatters with a rush" (Remarque 102-103). Paul and his comrades are not only fighting the French at the front for survival, but they are fighting the rats for survival as well. The rats are a big problem in the trenches because they try to get at the men's bread at all costs. The men must stoop down to the rats' level and fight them or starve. Another symbol that Remarque uses occurs in the novel when Detering becomes homesick and runs away from the front: "His misfortune was that he saw a cherry tree in a garden" (Remarque 275). When he sees a cherry tree in bloom he is reminded of his home and how life used to be before the war. His pleasant thoughts get the best of him and he escapes the horrid war to go tend to his orchard.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a great example of an anti-war novel and show with great detail how horrible war is. He shows how brutal war and be through sight as well as sound. He shows how the characters' views of life change throughout the war and how barbarous war is period. Lastly, he shows how ruthless war is through symbolism. War is wrong.