Analysis of Remarque's Passage

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Paul describes the front as a “mysterious whirlpool” that “irresistibly, inescapably” (55) sucks himself in. “irresistibly” grimly explains how overpowering battle can be—it is impossible to avoid and draws him into without his consent. “Irresistible” is a word to describes objects that one desires, and many soldiers desire to fight at the front. Many young men have been led to believe that war will result in one becoming a hero—which may be true in some situations, but Paul finds this propaganda used by Kantorek and others to be false. It supports the idea of appearance versus reality; war seems like the breeding ground for heroism, yet it often results in selfishness and death. “Inescapably” conveys the feeling of suffocation Paul experiences. Later in the passage, when the connection a solider feels to the earth is described, “buries” and “stifles” are two verbs that are used. These verbs also bring connotations of suffocation and no escape, which are recurring feelings throughout the novel. Paul’s life should be carefree, yet he is thrown into this situation of war, which cuts off an important period in his life—his maturing into an adult. He feels trapped in his life because he has two conflicting feelings—he does not want to be in war, because of obvious reasons like the danger and terror. Yet, it has become what he is used to, and his past life is very vague. Unlike older soldiers, which can recall their past lives and have a strong desire to return to them, Paul and his comrades have no connections to any life. This realization contributes to the smothering he feels.

A prayer is spoken to the Earth, using prayer-like words like “thy redeemed ones” and “O Earth.” Seeing all the terrors of war has turned men away...

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... Animals, for the most part, have no control over their destiny and submit to high powers—unlike man, who tries to control his own life. The earth is personified when it is referred to as a friend, brother, and mother. These soldiers lack the protection a family provides. Like how the earth becomes a form of religious figure, it also becomes a person that they can put their trust in to keep them safe. Fellow soldiers cannot always be totally relied on, but the always surrounding earth is a source of stability. Repetition is used when the word “earth” is repeated three times. It is used to emphasis the importance of this word, and the value it holds to the soldiers. Being pressed up against the earth means safety for these men, and in the chaos of fighting, sometimes it is the only sure object they can see. Sometimes, it is the only thing that offers any support.
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