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The Horrors of War
Throughout their lives, people must deal with the horrific and violent side of humanity. The side of humanity is shown through the act of war. This is shown in Erich Remarque’s novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front”. War is by far the most horrible thing that the human race has to go through. The participants in the war suffer irreversible damage by the atrocities they witness and the things they go through.
One of the worst things about war is the severity of carnage that it bestows upon mankind. Men are killed by the millions in the worst ways imaginable. Bodies are blown apart, limbs are cracked and torn and flesh is melted away from the bone. Dying eyes watch as internal organs are spilled of empty cavities, naked torso are hung in trees and men are forced to run on stumps when their feet are blown off. Along with the horrific deaths that accompany war, the injuries often outnumber dead men. As Paul Baumer witnessed in the hospital, the injuries were terrifying and often led to death. His turmoil is expressed in the lines, “Day after day goes by with pain and fear, groans and death gurgles. Even the death room I no use anymore; it is too small.” The men who make it through the war take with them mental and physical scarification from their experiences.
People who have actually been through war know how horrible it is. Society on the other hand, while it believes it knows the horrors of war, can never understand or sympathize with a soldier’s situation. The only people who can understand war is those who have been through it so they can often feel alone if they are out of the military. Paul cannot even give a straight answer to his own father about his dad’s inquiries about war. Paul’s dad does not understand that people who have been in the war can in no way truly express the horrible things that that have seen and experienced. Nor can Paul fit in with the society who does not understand him. Paul and so many others were brought into the war so young that they know of nothing else other than war. Paul held these views on society as he said, “We will be superfluous even to ourselves, we will grow older, a few will adapt themselves, some others will merely submit, and most will be bewildered;-the years will pass by and in the end we shall fall in to ruin.
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Adding to the unfairness of war is the idea that a soldier’s fate is determined by chance. No matter how well a soldier avoids bombs and avoids gunfire, there is always a chance that bomb could land where he stands or a stray bullet pierce his skull. Chance as a soldier’s fate decreases the idea that the soldiers are control of their own lives.
While in the war, the conditions a soldier must live in are sub-human. In “All Quiet on the Western front”, Paul and his friends must reside in dirt trenches where death and pestilence surrounds them. They have to sleep holding their bread so the rats won’t steal it. The dirt that surrounds them turns dark as it absorbs the blood of fallen soldiers.
Yet another downside of war (as if there were any upsides) is that the men on both sides killing each other are pretty much the same. Paul realizes this as he guards the Russian prison camp. He sympathizes with the poor state they are in and realizes him and the prisoners share the same role in the war. When he kills the man who ends up dying in his shell hole he feel entirely remorseful and for the first knows what it is like to intimately take a man’s life. All the participants in the war must live with the fact that they have killed men that were very much like themselves.
With all the reasons that war is bad, one can understand why in the end Paul was happier in death than he was in life. Paul being happy that he did not have to lead a life of anymore is perhaps the beat example of how war is.