All Quiet on the Western Front: Themes

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All Quiet On the Western Front: Themes

All Quiet on the Western Front is a graphic depiction of the horrors of war. In the short note before Chapter One, Remarque lets the reader know exactly what themes he intends. War is a savage and gratuitous evil, war is unnatural, and war is responsible for the destruction of an entire generation. Remarque is very clear on the strength of his themes, and uses graphic imagery to convey to the reader the physical and psychological impact that war has on humanity. But Remarque uses more than graphic description to support his themes. Remarque also utilizes a very defined nature motif, with the forces of nature constantly rebelling against the conflict it plays battleground to. With the Earth itself, the source of all things, supporting his themes, Remarque has a seemingly unbiased witness bearing testament to his observations. Remarque can use nature as the judge to condemn war, along with shocking imagery, so that his literature remains without a trace of nationalism, political ill will, or even personal feelings.

It should be noted that the nature motif is carried consistently throughout the novel, and that it supports many of the author's lesser themes. For the purpose of portraying war as something terrible, though, the nature motif is expressed most dramatically in the following passages. These passages mark the three distinct stages of nature's condemnation of war: rebellion, perseverance, and erasure.

The first passage occurs in Chapter Four when the troops are trucked out to the front to install stakes and wire. However, the narrator's squad is attacked unexpectedly by an English bombardment. With no visible enemy to fight, the soldiers are forced to take cover and live out the bombardment. In the process, the earth is shredded and blown asunder. It is during this melee that many of the companies' horses are wounded, and begin to bellow terribly.

"It is unendurable. It is the moaning of...
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