Sorrow, a Timeless Theme
Is it possible for a single theme to exist in the past and still live today? This question is easily answered through a movie of the past and a story of the present. In 1930, All Quiet on the Western Front was released to the public. The film was based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, directed by Lewis Milestone, and produced by Carl Laemmle Jr. (“All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 film)”). The present day story was written on www.usatoday.com on November 8, 2012, and is entitled: “On Veterans Day, a vet’s suicide haunts those left behind (Raasch).” Despite the time period difference and the type of media, both share the common theme of sorrow. The film and story have numerous similarities that express the theme by using events, processes, feelings, and emotions. Sorrow has stayed consistent throughout the past and present and has proved itself to be a timeless theme. War changes people. It turns soldiers into new people where the only real life is no longer at home but on the battlefield. For years, Vietnam veteran, Jeffery Davis, was haunted by memories that originated from the war. On Sept. 15, 1984, Davis approached the memorial wall in D.C. and shot himself beside an oak tree (Raasch). His wife Alice Franks and their children, Scott and Kelly, were left on their own. Scott was 3 at the time, and Kelly was 6. Kelly remembers how ecstatic she was to show the neighbor kids’ new Cabbage Patch dolls to her mother just before Alice told her that her father was dead. Scott does not remember anything from that day, but he still felt the anger, grief, and guilt the others shared (Raasch). “I was pretty angry, I got into trouble, I lashed out. I felt abandoned almost” (Raasch). It became a daily routine for Scott to read the newspaper story about his father’s death, with the goal of going through it without crying. Scott eventually learned to accept his father’s fate. The family struggled through their mixed emotions and unanswered questions over the following years, with every Veterans Day standing as a reminder of what happened. Davis’s family knew he dealt with traumatic experiences and that he only felt relaxed around other Vietnam veterans. It has been especially hard for Alice to approach the wall, yet over time she had come to admire it for its mystical elegance. The memorial wall was the last place Davis went to, which became a magnet to attract his family. Alice glances at the wall and the surrounding oak trees every time she passes jogs by. She wonders which oak tree her husband leaned against before he died, “...And I probably always will” (Raasch). Alice, Kelly, and Scott forgave and accepted their husband and father departing from their lives, and the Vietnam veteran still lives on in their hearts.
There are many similar events that share the common theme of sorrow in this present day story of the Vietnam veteran committing suicide and “All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), a sensitive film burst upon the American movie scene in 1930” (Lorence 45). Davis could not shake off the painful memories he held, one of which being a fight over a Vietnamese-controlled village where he thinks he killed a child. “It was one of those split-second decisions they had to make,” Alice explains. “And it haunted him, just horribly” (Raasch). The traumatic war experiences Davis went through reinforced the choice to take his life by his own hands using a pistol. I believe Bäumer did exactly this in the last scene of the movie, except he did not use a gun, he used a butterfly. At the end of All Quiet on the Western Front, Bäumer had reached his tolerance peak. He had witnessed an excessive amount of wounds and death at this point in the film. He had seen Joseph Behm flail around in the trenches after losing his sight, eventually succumbing to a mortar shell. He had witnessed Franz Kemmerich slowly approaching death after his leg was amputated, and was dealing with an infection. Bäumer...
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