War Can Be Humanizing

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The Collins Gage Canadian dictionary defines dehumanize as: “To deprive of human qualities or attributes.” Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, there are most definitely several aspects of war that are not, by definition, dehumanizing and can in fact make young soldiers more human. Due to the heightened sense of compassion that is felt, the bonds that are formed between soldiers, and the perspective on what’s of value in life that is gained, war can undoubtedly be a humanizing experience for those that go through it. Though one may be quick to assume the opposite, war can certainly amplify a soldier’s compassion, thereby making him more human. This becomes evident when Paul Baumer, a character in All Quiet on the Western Front, says: “Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if you would be sensible too. But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony – Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Take twenty years of my life, comrade, and stand up – take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now.” (223). Paul’s compassion becomes obvious when realizes the soldier he had just killed is no different from himself and he addresses the soldier as “comrade”, while instructing him to take some of his life, for Paul has just taken the rest of his. Once he sees the...
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