Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front

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In his novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque depicts a transition in the nature of reality from idealism to realism and naturalism. This transition takes place at different parts of his novel, and to different degrees. At the beginning of the novel, on page 12, we see through Paul B„umer's comments regarding Kantorek that he and his friends were taught in school of the "glory" of war. B„umer stated, ".they taught that duty to one's country is the greatest thing." Since B„umer and his friends respected and trusted Kantorek, they hardly gave the prospect of not going into war a second glance. On pages 84-85, the conversation between B„umer, Mller, and Kropp reveals that practically everything they were taught in school is of no use to them anymore. All of the knowledge they had acquired via their studies was not applicable in the trenches. Instead of having to know, for instance, "How many inhabitants has Melbourne?", they have to know how to light a cigarette in pouring rain. On page 263, Paul comments, "I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow." This sums up his entire disposition towards himself at the end of the novel. He was taken into the army, willfully, but still taken, in the prime of his youth, to a place where death and destruction were facts of life. Remarque depicts a transition in the value systems of Paul and his comrades. Kemmerich's boots, symbolic of a horizontal value system, can be seen to have considerable influence over those in the novel. However, B„umer comments, ".Mller would rather go bare-foot over barbed wire than scheme how to get hold of them [boots]. the boots are quite inappropriate to Kemmerich's circumstances.Mller can make good use of them.", the shift to a horizontal value system, based on materialism and hard-core usefulness, does not necessarily lead to a degradation of humanity. This change in value systems can be seen clearly on page 21, where Paul describes his and his friends' enlisting to the district commandant. They had no plans for the future, having only "vague ideas" regarding life in general, giving to the war "an ideal and almost romantic character". He describes a movement from what is important, before and after his experience in war. He learns that a "a bright button is weightier than four volumes of Schopenhauer"; that "what matters is not the mind, but the boot brush, not intelligence but the system, not freedom but drill".

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