Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front"

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Erich Maria Remarque’s account of life as a soldier in World War I, as described in All Quiet on the Western Front, paints a shockingly realistic portrait of the horrors of war and how it affects the men who experienced trench warfare firsthand. Remarque draws upon his own experience as a soldier and tells his story through Paul Bäumer, the novel’s main character, who is a young German man who is sent to serve his nation on the battlefield. Remarque uses Bäumer to convey the significant psychological impact a soldier experiences and how it alters his view on his past civilian life, as well as the lives of other civilians. In this essay, I will explore Bäumer’s personal experience as a soldier and how the war continued to change his outlook throughout the duration of his military service. Remarque precedes the story with a brief statement which says that “it will try simply to tell of a generation of men, who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.” Regardless of this grim statement, the novel’s tone, which is narrated by Bäumer, begins on a bright note as he and his friends enlist in the army to serve their nation. They enter the battlefield as naïve, hopeful young men fresh out of high school, but the tone soon drifts into darker territory. Bäumer learns that war is not conducive to the high morale he and his friends shared when they left their homes for the trenches, and that all men essentially must endure the war alone. This change in attitude is prompted by the early death of a classmate, Joseph Behm. Bäumer sums up the detachment soldiers experience from their comrades, as well as their older and younger generations, when he says that “we were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through.” This detachment becomes clearer during Bäumer’s second visit home, nearly two years after he left to fight in the war. He is reluctant to discuss what he had experienced on the battlefield,...
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