In All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque paints a clear and gruesome picture of the horrors and atrocities of war and the effects on those who fight the war. He tells the story of Paul Baumer and his comrades who, after being persuaded by their teacher Kantorek, patriotically enlist in the German army. The glory of being a soldier quickly fades and the true horror of war is soon realized. As the war continues, Baumer begins to forget his identity outside of the war; the war has both destroyed him and defined him. A theme strewn throughout the novel is that that Baumer and his comrades were fighting a fight in which they did not believe. This paper will attempt to portray the relevance of the events and themes in All Quiet on the Western Front with the just war theory, the current situation in Iraq, and the Israeli-Arab conflicts. Plot Overview
The first chapter of the novel introduces us to Paul Baumer, a nineteen year old recruit in the German army. The recruits know little of the horrors of war yet; they have a bountiful supply of tobacco, double portions of food, mail from home, and time to sleep (Remarque, 1928, pp. 1-18). In Chapter two, we begin to see the disconnect from Paul's life before the war and his life during the war. He speaks of how he would often write poetry before the war but that part of his life had "become so unreal to me I cannot comprehend it any more" (Remarque, 1928, p. 19). Later in the chapter, we learn that Kemmerich, Paul's fellow recruit and friend, is near death in the hospital to do an infected wound on his leg (Remarque, 1928, p. 28). In this scene, the theme of the dehumanization of the soldier is perpetuated through the hospital staff's actions and attitude towards Kemmerich (Remarque, 1928, p. 32). The most important event in chapter three, I believe, is the scene in which the soldiers enact their revenge on Himelstoss (Remarque, 1928, pp. 48-49). It shows the soldier's growing disrespect for authority. In chapter four, as the soldiers face the grueling task of laying barbed wire, they are assaulted by a bombing raid. As the soldiers seek cover, they are confronted with the cries of wounded and dying from the bombings. It is at this point that many of the soldiers begin to question the war. They realize that because of the affairs of men, the horses were suffering terrible deaths. As the cries continue, the soldiers decide to put the horses out of their misery by ending their lives (Remarque, 1928, pp. 51-67). Chapter five shows how the younger men in the war no longer have any identity outside of the war. It shows that the older me who are fighting the war had a chance to establish lives before the war, and thus have something to hold on to and maintain an identity outside of the war. The younger men, however, never had a chance to establish lives for themselves, thus they have no identity to hold to during the war (Remarque, 1928, pp. 77-81). Chapter six presents us with the grim reality of the new trench warfare. Food and supplies are scarce; there is little time to sleep (Remarque, 1928, pp. 106-108). The bombardments, however, prove nothing in comparison to the actual combat. The soldiers are forced to watch bodies pile up and listen to both comrades and enemies meet their demise (Remarque, 1928, p. 124). The highlight of chapter seven is Paul, Leer, and Kropp's "rendezvous" with the three French girls. For a moment, they are able to forget about the horrors of the war and escape to a place of bliss. They could not speak the same language of the girls, but they were still able to communicate with people who they should have considered their enemies (Remarque, 1928, pp 144-150). Chapter eight brings Paul to the training camp. The most important event in this chapter is Paul's connection with the Russian prisoners. Paul realizes that the only reason they are his enemy is that the leader of his country has declared them to be so. He...
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