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All Quiet on the Western Front: Nature of War
In the books All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and The Wars by Timothy Findley, there is clear evidence of the nature of war. With all the efforts of preparation, discipline, and anticipation, false hopes were created for the young individuals, who leave the battlefields with numerous emotional and physical scars. The propaganda and disciplinary training to convince naïve young men to go to battle to fight for their country, the death of their comrades, and the physical breakdown are all part of twentieth century warfare.
Paul Baumer is the main character in All Quiet on the Western Front, and Robert Ross is the main character in The Wars. Both boys were at a very young age when they were exposed to World War 1. The war was getting worse as the days went by, and the soldiers were dying quickly. The commanding officers felt it was best to convince young men to enter the war to support and fight for their country. They were not told whom they were really fighting for, or the cause. In Paul’s case, Germany was under attack from many sides, and it was best for him to head for the front lines and defend his fatherland. Paul was almost “brainwashed” and was completely convinced that he was doing the right thing.
Once it was different. When we went to the district commandant to enlist, we were a class of twenty young men, many of whom proudly shaved for the first time before going to the barracks. We had no definite plans for our future. Our thoughts of a career and occupation were as yet of too unpractical a character to furnish any scheme of life. We were still crammed full of vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also an ideal and almost romantic character. We were trained in the army for ten weeks and in this time more profoundly influenced than by ten years at school (Remarque 25).
However, in Robert’s case, he felt neglected by his family, and sought refuge in the war as a way of escaping his family and the death of his sister.
Robert envied him because he could go away when this was over and surround himself with space. (It was then, perhaps, the first inkling came that it was time for Robert to join the army (Findley 24).
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As eager as the boys were, they were never really prepared for what they would encounter on the battlefield. At such a young age, neither Paul nor Robert had ever killed anyone; much less stared death in the face. This was the emotional breakdown that the characters endured. Suffering the loss of a companion or watching him or her die before you was the most torturous event.
An hour passes. I sit tensely and watch his every movement in case he may perhaps say something. What if he were to open his mouth and cry out! But he only weeps, his head turned aside. He does not speak of his mother or his brothers and sisters. He says nothing; all that lies behind him; he is entirely alone now with his little life of nineteen years, and cries because it leaves him. This is the most disturbing and hardest parting that I ever have seen, although it was pretty bad too with Tiedjen, who called for his mother – a big bear of a fellow who, with wild eyes full of terror, held off the doctor from his bed with a dagger until he collapsed (Remarque 33).
Not only witnessing the death of his friends, Paul himself, was forced to witness the death of an enemy by his own hands.
There are three stabs. My field dressing covers them, the blood runs out under it, I press it tighter; there; he groans. That is all I can do. Now we must wait, wait. These hours… The gurgling starts again – but how slowly a man dies (Remarque193).
At such a young age, Paul’s emotional condition had worsened due to these experiences. It had made him confused about all the unnecessary killings, and it was the first sign that Paul was questioning his decision when he entered the army. Robert was also faced with the tragedies of the Front lines. However, because of the previous problems before the war and the constant bombardment during the war, Robert snapped. He freed some horses that he was responsible for and when running away, Robert encountered some of his fellow soldiers that he shot and killed. These actions did not go unnoticed, and Robert was a wanted man. “But just as the walls began to fall in on top of the fifty horses – all of them standing in their places while they burned -–Robert turned the mare and she leapt through the flames – already falling – with Robert on her back on fire. And then he lost consciousness” (Findley 186).
Robert’s actions due to his unstable mind eventually led to his physical breakdown.
Like Robert, Paul’s condition had deteriorated as well. He was injured on the battlefield but recovered quickly only to return to the front lines once again. All his friends had died and left him alone, but it was not long before Paul had joined them as one of the minor casualties of war. “He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come” (Remarque 256).
Paul and Robert had lived short lives through torturous paths. All their dreams concluded at the last breath each one had taken due to the slow process in which they died. Their physical scars had cost them their lives. Even though Robert had died after the war it was evident that at the time of death, the war and misery was fresh on his mind. All these young men were drawn into a battle started by their “fatherland” leaders. Their expectation of warfare was far from reality until they came face to face with death on the battlefield. Because of their tender age, it was difficult for them to deal with the constant bombardments and attacks from the enemy, along with watching the death of the companions. These images flashed continuously in their heads until they could not bear it any longer. Robert was so troubled that he turned against his own people. Paul had stabbed a Frenchman with intent on killing him, but later on, tried to save him. The final physical breakdown was the eventual death of both characters. Even though many had survived the war, like Robert, they continued to live with the fear of a possible gas attack or raid every night.
This book is to be 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 to simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war (Erich Maria Remarque).
1. You use the format for long quotes correctly. However, when writing a short quote, make sure that the final punctuation comes after the parentheses of the citation, “and then he lost consciousness” (Findley 186). Instead of “and then he lost consciousness.” (Findley 186)
2. You have a good thesis statement. You also have a good conclusion.