Ellen Glasgow said, "Violence commands both literature and life.” Violence commands Erich Maria Remarque’s literature in his novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Remarque accurately depicts both the physical and mental repercussions of war. All Quiet on the Western Front should be read by all members of the Armed Forces for several reasons. First, the novel describes in detail the worst case scenarios associated with war. By being exposed to such a portrayal of war, unprepared citizens would be able to make better decisions regarding enlisting. Second, those citizens who do decide to enlist would be better prepared mentally for the mental horrors that occur after war. Finally, All Quiet on the Western Front sets a standard for the patriotism needed to serve one’s country and the consequential honor that comes with that patriotism.
Perhaps the biggest argument for not mandating the reading of All Quiet on the Western Front is the possible decline in enlisting in the Armed Forces. Such an argument is moot, though. All Quiet merely depicts war as it actually is. In All Quiet, Remarque describes a moment of war by writing, “Everywhere wire-cutters are snapping, planks are thrown across the entanglements. . . the earth shudders, it crashes, smokes, and groans, we stumble over slippery lumps of flesh, over yielding bodies” (Remarque 117). The possibility of war is manifest in the duties of the military. Gulf War Veteran Alan Parks asserts, “If a man is going to be deterred from the military by the occurrences of war, he is not the type of man [one] would want defending [one’s country]” (Parks). By reading All Quiet ...
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... feels after a war by saying, “While in the ‘spotlight,’ it is the single greatest feeling anyone could ever imagine” (Parks).
Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front accurately describes both the horrors and honors of war. If the Armed Forces would require this novel to be read, more men would be better prepared for the feelings that await them in the military. By telling of the negative aspects of war, Remarque’s novel could successfully weed out those whom the army does not suit. By telling of the positive aspects of war, Remarque’s novel could encourage more men to join the military. Whether a man decides to join or not to join, Remarque’s novel can provide guidance in making the choice.
Parks, Alan. Personal interview. 3 April. 2001.
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. New York: Ballantine, 1956.
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