Remarque s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, transpires in the trenches of the Nazi Western Front, which is protected by the young German soldiers World War I. Paul B umer, the narrator; enters the war under pressure to enlist; goes to the front and learns about the brutality of war. Paul witnesses the extreme violence that defines war during his time spent on the Western Front. B umer and his cronies learn to except the war as part of their lives, but the pains of battle which tear the young soldiers apart inside never leave.
When these armed men return to normal civilization, disappointment strikes deep in their hearts as the ignorance of those not in the war reveals itself. The now savage killing machines can no longer relate to everyday society. The common populace knows not of the harsh realities of war, and for this reason they innocently talk as though the fighting and killing that characterizes the seemingly eternal siege, possesses some glorifying reward. The people who have not been forced to look into the eyes of a dying comrade, whose legs have torn off due to the shrapnel of a mortar, can not sympathize with the broken hearts of the soldiers. They only visualize a possibly strenuous battle resulting in few casualties and from which their troops emerge elated and victorious. The soldiers on the front lines actually experience events, which scar their minds with thoughts of death and destruction.
Remarque displays these ideas of pain and suffering through ignorance, fear, and inhumanity. Remarque depicts the misconception of war, by capturing the unknowing ness that prevents those not fighting the war, from understanding the truth about war s hideous reality. Ignorance, one of the many facets of the people s general understanding of war, causes the formation of a gap between the soldiers and the rest of society. But my father would rather I kept my uniform on so that he could take me to visit his acquaintances. (pg. 164) Paul states that he has no desire to wear a uniform that represents the unfathomable death and destruction of the war.
Paul s father can not comprehend the fact that the uniform means more than loyalty, bravery, and honor. He perfectly exemplifies the attitude of the majority of civilians; they are blinded by their pride and confidence and can not visualize war s devastating effect on the soldiers. He wants me to tell him about the front; he is curious in a way that I find stupid and distressing; I no longer have any real contact with him. (pg. 165). Paul reiterates his feelings about the war and its separating effects in a subsequent quote, B umer once again uses his father to represent the whole of society oblivious to the trained killing machines that once lived as regularly operating beings.
The inexplicable ignorance of the civilians continues to reveal itself as another person, this time his German-master approaches him with comments, which display that the people know nothing about the battle, their troops fight. You look well, Paul, and fit. Naturally it s worse here. Naturally. The best for our soldiers every time that goes without saying. (Pg.
166). Clearly the general public had no idea that their soldiers suffered and died on the battlefields. Fear also weighed heavily in the hearts of the soldiers. The anticipation of an inevitably untimely death caused many soldiers to live their hectic lives in a constant state of fear. The front is a cage in which we must wait fearfully whatever may happen. (pg.
101) Paul states that the uncertainty of war results in unending suffering. This suffering takes a toll not only on the body, but on the mind as well. Soldiers live with death on a regular basis, which no doubt works on the mind in such a fashion that the fear of their own death and the deaths of their friends causes tremendous anxiety. At one point in the novel Paul defines the front as a mysterious whirlpool (pg. 55).
The troops fear of the unknown force upon them uncertainty in a time during which the utmost confidence is required. A soldier lacking the confidence to react to his surroundings also lacks the ability to stay alive during heated battle. Where s Himmelstoss? Quickly I jump back and find him lying pretending to be wounded. He is in panic (pg. 131). B umer describes how even high ranking officers fear for their lives during bombardments.
Ironically, Himmelstoss presents himself as a thick-skinned veteran when the fighting has ceased, but he can t keep his composure when the possibility arises that he may lose his life. If not even the high-ranking officers can stay strong no young, green soldier could be expected to exhibit bravery. The troops carry this fear with them even after the war ends, and society can not see why the men are plagued with paranoia. The soldiers subsequently form walls between themselves and the rest of the world.
One of the strongest themes in this book is that war makes man inhuman. Remarque often compared the troops to various nonliving objects that were inhuman. The soldiers are compared to coins of different provinces that are melted down and now they bear the same stamp, (Pg. 236). Remarque concludes that the soldiers state of mind that exhibits change, from when they were schoolboys; the stamp being the mark of a soldier changing them forever.
Paul compares his cronies and himself with "automatons'; robots operating themselves as nothing more than killing machines (Pg. 105). Remarque uses this analogy to give the impression that the soldiers endure the same feeling repeatedly in such a fashion that they appear inhuman. In this classic war story Remarque also describes the soldiers as inhuman wild beasts. Paul states that when soldiers reach the zone where the front begins they transform into "instant inhuman animals' (pg. 56).
Remarque expresses the fact that the front resembles a magical line; once they cross it they re not the same people they lived as on the other side of the line. Paul comments, "We have become wild beasts. We do not fight we defend ourselves against annihilation' (pg. 103).
Here Remarque states that the German soldiers only defend what they have, not attempting to pillage and burn what doesn t belong to them. Paul believes that they become something like men again after the soldiers get the food, which the body requires to function properly, (pg. 106). Remarque implies that the drive for food changes the troops into terrifying wild beasts, but when they get the food they revert back to human form once again. Damned lousy war — (pg.
77). A soldier expresses feelings for the war which he shares with nearly all other soldiers no matter what the war or reason for fighting it. All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Remarque, depicts war s effects on soldiers and how society has great trouble relating to the troops suffering. Clearly, a large wall erects itself between the soldiers and the rest of the world. Without experiencing their own ignorance, the fears of war, and the inhumane treatment the troops receive, the civilians have no idea of how to fathom the traumatic pains of war. In today s society, this line between soldiers and civilians has thinned, but not erased.
Today s warfare greatly differs from that of the past in that the battlefield doesn t consist only of hoards of men charging each hoping to escape death. Perhaps war will someday be fought over the phone, without weapons minimizing deaths and suffering, if soldiers were not so traumatized by war the barrier between civilians and troops could erase itself.