Dehumanization in All Quiet on the Western Front

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All Quiet on the Western Front
In All Quiet on the Western Front by Enrique Maria Remarque, the reader follows Paul Baumer as he fights through World War I and discovers the trials of being a soldier. As they survive through the war with each other, Paul and the other soldiers began to understand certain realities of life. Going into the battlefield teenagers, the soldiers come out as old men, burdened with their experiences. The war, meant to glorify Germany and turn its men into heroes, deadens and dehumanizes Paul and the other soldiers until they can’t recognize themselves.

As soldiers, Paul and his friends are treated with little care. Their superiors act as if they are animals, replaceable and expendable because there are so many of them, and they hold so little power by themselves. Although only teenagers, these soldiers have had to grow up quickly in order to fight for their apparently insignificant lives. It is said that “[they] are the Iron Youth” (21). By describing the soldiers as “Iron,” Paul expresses how much the war has changed them. Iron, which can be interpreted both literally and figuratively, is a strong metal that covers a lot of the Earth as well as residing in its core. Therefore, with the soldiers described as “iron”, they are referred to as replaceable, expendable, and abundant in numbers. Also, “iron” can be used to describe someone who is determined, tough, and strong, showing how much these 19 year old soldiers have had to grow up in order to stay alive in the war. They lost their childhood, aging into old men because of the devastation and experiences they’ve encountered. And slowly, as their childhood goes, their humanity and liveliness leaves as well.

The more the soldiers are treated like cattle, disposable and soulless, the faster they regress. Remarque often uses beast imagery to describe the soldiers at war, showing their relapse into animals while on the battlefield. We have become wild beasts. We do not fight,...
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