Essay: All Quiet on the Western Front
An anti-war novel often portrays many of the bad aspects and consequences of war. Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel set in the First World War that is against war. Remarque describes the terrible reality of the war, focusing on the horrors and involved. The novel portrays an anti-war perspective as it brings up issues about the brutality of war, the narrator’s change of attitude towards war, the futility of war and the deaths of the narrator’s friends.
In the novel, Remarque presents the brutality of war. Early on in the novel, he describes the sound of the wounded horses and how brutal the war atmosphere is. “There is a whole world of pain in that sound, creation itself under torture, a wild and horrifying agony'; (p44). The brutality of war in the novel, however, is mainly shown through human suffering. Baumer talks about brutal things that soldiers are just expected to do. He says, “When you put a bayonet in, it can stick, and you have to give the other man a hefty kick to get it out…'; (p74). The German soldiers attack the enemy with extreme instinctive brutality. “With the butt of his rifle, Kat smashes to pulp one of the machine-gunners…We bayonet the others before they can get their grenades out'; (p84). The use of poison gas is also a very brutal practice throughout the novel. Baumer describes this while he is in a gassed area, hoping that his gas mask is working properly. He says, “I know the terrible sights from the field hospital, soldiers who have been gassed, choking for days on end as they spew up their burned-out lungs, bit by bit'; (p48).
The narrator changes his attitude towards war as he becomes more aware of its undesirable effects. Even in the beginning, Baumer realises its terrible reality and the change it has made to his life. He says, “We have lost all our ability to see things in other ways, because they are artificial. For us, it is only the facts that count (p15). The physical change of the narrator and his fellow soldiers also indicate that he has gone through an attitude change towards war. “We [Paul Baumer and his fellow soldiers] became tough, suspicious, hard-hearted, vengeful and rough…'; (p19). When the narrator talks about the differenc...
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...eir lost mates: “…when we see a photograph of one of our friends who has been killed, and we stop to think about it. The features are his, the face is his, and the days we spent with him take on a deceptive life in our memories; but it isn’t really him'; (p87). The deaths of mates are made even harder to cope with because the soldiers can’t burden themselves with emotions for their mates. “But our mates are dead, and we can’t help them'; (p100). “When someone is dead we say he’s pushing up the daisies’, and we talk about everything the same way, to save ourselves from going mad…'; (p101).
Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is essentially an anti-war novel. He portrays the reality of war by giving examples of the many horrors and tragedies involved. The anti-war novel brings up the issue of the brutality of war, the narrator’s change of attitude towards war, the futility of war, and the tragedy of the deaths of the narrator’s friends. Since Remarque describes these issues in detail throughout the story, the novel is completely against war.
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