Irony in All Quiet on the Western Front Essay

Irony in All Quiet on the Western Front Essay

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Irony is not always funny; verbal, dramatic, and situational irony are often used to assert truth or to add depth to an author’s writing. In Erich Maria Remarque’s book, All Quiet on the Western Front, the reader experiences years of life on the front of World War I through the eyes of a young German man, Paul Bäumer, who has enlisted with his classmates at the expectation of their schoolmaster. Remarque uses irony throughout his novel, best displayed in the names of the characters, the various settings, and in the deaths of the characters.
The names of the characters in the book are clear examples of irony. The protagonist’s last name, Bäumer, is similar to the word for ‘tree’ in German: baum. On the last page of the book, Paul’s death s described with a euphemism. “He fell on October 1918…”; “He had fallen forward…” (296). Paul’s last name is a kind of dramatic irony, since the reader could make a connection between his life and that of a tree, while the characters in the book never analyze his name enough to predict his death. Just as his last name suggests, Paul is like a tree. He is sturdy and strong during the war, yet when his time came, he only fell forward, like a tree that had been chopped down in the middle of a quiet forest. In addition, when Haie is beating Himmelstoss, Paul’s description of the final blow is that Haie, “… reached out his right arm… he looked as if he were going to reach down a star.” (49). Remarque used an ironic play on the name of the corporal, since Corporal Himmelstoss has a name that is also a play on German words; “himmel” meaning “heaven” and “stoss” (stoß) meaning kick, push, and other similar words. In effect, the beating that Himmelstoss receives is pushing him down from the “heaven” that ...

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...solely as, “All quiet on the Western Front,” (296) adds an even deeper sense of situational irony. A day that is termed “all quiet” is a day that does not include any fighting; Paul’s death occurred on a day that there was no battling, and the way in which he died is also not defined. The sudden deaths of both these characters are the ultimate examples of the situational irony that is prevalent throughout the novel.
All Quiet on the Western Front includes many clear-cut examples of irony throughout the duration of the novel. From word play in the names of the characters that led to dramatic irony, to the paradox that is obvious in the setting, and finally the situational irony that is critical to the impact of the character’s death on the reader, Remarque provides depth to the novel and the emotional connection that the reader has to the characters in the book.

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