All Quiet On The Western Front

All Quiet On The Western Front

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The novel All Quiet On The Western Front contains many incidents where the readers can hold characters responsible for their actions, however his novel in particular relates to the clash of values. Though fictional this novel by Erich Maria Remarque, presents vast detail through the conflicts at the Western Front. Corporal Himmelstoss a character in the novel is portrayed as a stereotypical military man, whose actions, when all's said and done, speaks for itself as the reader really does not question his iniquitous behaviour. However, apart from just the reader holding such characters morally accountable for their actions the novel concerns the rejection of traditional values, Paul’s disillusionment, and life opposed to death. Through such clashing of values, Remarque creates a confronting novel where the plot is for the most part articulated around values in conflict.

The stereotypical stance of Corporal Himmelstoss, a military officer, is presented as a physically undersized man who wears a waxed moustache, which ideally supports the many defiant occasions where he disheartens the young soldiers. Throughout the novel where he is sent into the trenches we accept his role of breaking the spirits of the young soldiers. However, we understand why Paul and Albert Kropp take revenge beating him up. It is through these instances where the reader can almost understand a character through his right and wrong actions. Remarque’s inclusion of such scenes in the novel acts out the bitter anger and disillusionment of the young soldiers.

The constant close companion of death besides Paul and his friends provides such clashing of values. Throughout the novel Paul never really recalls their opponents, the allies, as enemies. We also hardly see the other side other than the time where they took on the French militia; infact it would be appropriate to conclude that their real enemy in the war was the enemy Death. Every soldier in the war wasn’t innocently fighting for his country in an attempt to win, soldiers were fighting in order to survive death – it is only the fact that chance and luck kept them going. Paul and his friends could not comprehend that World War One was simply fought due to some document signed by each side’s respective leaders. These events allow readers to follow through that novel above all was concerned with values of life against death, and peace against war.

Perhaps Remarque’s intended theme at the

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start of the novel can be questioned, “This story is neither an accusation or a confession, but an attempt to give an account of a generation destroyed by the war…” Their elders have betrayed Paul Baumer and his friends as they toss up military attitudes, where phony patriotic views are not detained. For example, when Paul is on leave in his hometown a major spots him and orders him to salute, not considering what he has just been through at the front. Also the cook denies extra rations to the soldiers due to heavy losses – he believes each man is entitled to their fair share. Another occasion of the rejection of such values is when Paul and his friends receive new uniforms for a routine inspection by the Kaiser, but later on are forced to hand it back – rags are what the front is worth. So when Paul says, “Spreading the truth afterwards may be the only good thing we can bring out of the war”, we perhaps wonder if this was one of Remarque’s own values.

A final instance where a clash of values is exhibited is when Paul is unable to make sense of the world due to being disillusioned. When Paul is on leave e goes to a bar some friendly hometown people, they encourage him to fight and win the war for Germany – they (society) don’t understand the real rigours of war as man is simply in conflict with himself at the front. Also a touch of irony is seen when Paul longs to go back to his comrades when he is on leave with his family. “A sense of strangeness will not leave me, I cannot feel at home amongst these things.” Paul’s strong values of mateship are showing here. It is all fittingly that all of Paul’s friends die before the end of the war, as they don’t have to go through the horrors of post-war depression. The final, open, unsettled irony in the novel takes the place of Paul’s death, just shortly before the armistice. Therefore we can see Paul’s generation is destroyed by the war, it is the enduring value of mateship that contrasts the war and its horrors.

So through the disillusionment of the young German soldiers, the constant fight of life against death and peace against war, the rejection of traditional values, readers are able to conclude that the novel is mainly about certain values that are in conflict. There are instances where we can accept and hold a character accountable, but the novel All Quiet On The Western Front is acclaimed for its values of mankind that are in conflict with both internal and external factors.
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