All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front

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 Whenever one reads or hears about World War I or World War II, you hear of the struggles and triumphs of the British, Americans or any of the other Allies. And they always speak of the evil and menacing German army. However, All Quiet on the Western Front gives the reader some insight and a look at a group of young German friends who are fighting in World War I. “This story is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.....” The soldiers of this war felt they were neither heroes nor  did they know what they were fighting for. These soldiers were pulled from the innocence of their childhood, and thrown into a world of rage. Yet somehow they still managed to have heart and faith in man kind and could not look the opponent in the eye and kill him. For he was man too, he too had a wife and children at home, he too was pulled out of his home to fight for a cause he didn't understand.
 The comrades were taught to fight. They were taught to kill the British and their allies. The comrades had no personal reason to fight with the other, except that it was an order and must be done. They were not fighting because they held a strong passion for their country, or felt deeply for the cause of the war. Albert simply states,  “...almost all of us are simple folk. And in France, too, the majority of men are laborers, workmen, or poor clerks. Now just why would a French blacksmith or a French shoemaker want to attack us? No, its merely the rulers. I had never seen a Frenchman before I came here, and it will be just the same with the majority of Frenchmen as regards us. They weren't asked about it any more then we were.”
 These soldiers lacked passion for the war. They didn't feel heroic because they did not hate the French nor the British. Therefore they lacked zeal to fight the war and did not fit the title of hero, they clung on to their life at all times.

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An example of Paul hiding during an attack shows his fear of death. “ I lie huddled in a large shell-hole, my legs in the water up to the belly. When the attack starts I will let myself fall into the water, with my face as deep in the mud as I can keep it without suffocating. I must pretend to be dead.” These soldiers went to extremes to save themselves from the raging war. Not only soldiers but officers of the army had come under the great influence of fear. During one scene, under a heavy attack Paul sees a petrified Himmelstoss who is crouching in a corner. “Get out!” I spit. He doesn't not stir, his lips quiver, his moustache twitches. “Out!” i repeat. He draws up his legs, crouches back against the wall, and shows his teeth like a cur.” If officers of the army overcame with such great fear, naturally the young recruits would be horrified as well. Unprepared and still innocent the recruits stared at the world in front of them with blank faces. Paul describes this during a front line attack. “Their pale turnip faces, their pitiful clenched hands, the fine courage of these poor devils, the desperate charges and attacks made by the poor brave wretches, who are so terrified that they dare not cry out loudly, but with battered chests, with torn bellies, arms and legs only whimper softly for their mothers and cease as soon as one looks at them.” Paul believes they have no business fighting the war. For they are merely easy targets for the opponents.
 By fighting in the war did not mean the soldiers were stone cold and held no emotions. By not feeling hate towards the opponent army, they could not be heroes  because they weren't able to kill them. In the middle of an attack when Paul is throwing grenades at the Russians he has to stop and he thinks. “ The moment we are about to retreat three faces rise up from the ground in front of us. Under one of the helmets a dark pointed beard and two eyes are fastened on me. I raise my hand, but cannot throw into those strange eyes; for one mad moment the whole slaughter whirls like a circus around me, and these two eyes alone are motionless.” Paul feels emotion, and fails to be a hero for he feels compassion. “ We de not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation.”
 This war was not a glorious event to partake in for the soldiers. They were thrown into the world of rage and robbed of their innocence, which could never be regained. Filled with memories from the war that could never be forgotten. This war had no meaning to them, they lacked enthusiasm in fighting for their country. They were not heroes for they had fear, and defended themselves rather than fighting.  These comrades felt sentiment for the opponents, for they both lacked passion for what they were fighting. This novel holds the ability to describe the soldiers in any war. Any soldier participating in a war does not have a conflict with the soldiers they are fighting with. It is the leaders of the countries who hold conflicts and lure their men into risking their lives. As Tjaden had mentioned in the beginning of the novel, “ we should let the leaders fight it out themselves in a ring.” For they are the ones with a personal conflict not the innocent comrades.

 

 
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