All Quiet on the Western Front Essay: Paul's Facade
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Paul's Facade in All Quiet on the Western Front
In Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul Baumer paints a vivid picture of the horrors of war. Many of these horrors are purely physical, such as the constant bombardments and gunshots whizzing overhead. But along with these physical horrors come mental and emotional ones. Chief among these is the "war mindset" that the soldier must acquire in order to survive war. The essence of this mindset is the total disregard for human life, and with it, human beliefs and customs. War requires a suspension of these standard human beliefs and customs. Paul outwardly appears to have acquired this "war mindset," but he does not internalize it and thus eventually dies.
For the most part, Paul at least outwardly appears to have adopted the war mindset. His actions are very much those of the typical soldier. For example, Paul, like all the other soldiers, will do anything he can for food. He is well accustomed to relieving himself out of doors: "Here in the open air though, the business is entirely a pleasure. I no longer understand why we should always have shied at these things before. They are, in fact, just as natural as eating and drinking" (8). Most of all, he values his survival above social customs: "We have lost all sense of other considerations, because they are artificial. Only the facts are real and important for us. And good boots are scarce" (21). For Paul, as for most soldiers, the rules of normal, polite society simply do not apply at the front. In the time between Paul's volunteering for the war and the beginning of the book, he has changed. For all the physical evidence, he is a common foot soldier.
But Paul's transformatio...
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... Paul wanted to get out of the war. Maybe Paul died on the right day; he loves quiet, and he dies on possibly the quietest day of the whole war. Maybe he just wanted to end his misery. In any case, Paul cannot accept the philosophy of war and thus gives himself up for death.
Society wants soldiers to believe that war is glorious. But it is not. Society wants soldiers to believe war is an adventure. But it is not. Society wants soldiers to believe that our enemy is the only enemy, that our cause is the only cause, that our people are the only people. But there are many enemies, many causes and many peoples. According to Paul, all these causes are equally ignoble, and none of these enemies are worthy of being slaughtered en masse. For Paul, as for many people, past, present, and future, war is simply unacceptable, and nothing can repair the damage it does.