Literature of War / Period 1
The Savage Within
Throughout Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, vivid images of gruesome animal instincts and the innocent animals’ lives ending are illustrated for the reader repeatedly. Remarque indicates that for a soldier’s survival in battle they must cease sanity and rely solely on primitive instinct. This notion of animal instincts leads soldiers to be less like a human being with rational thoughts. The protagonist, Paul Bäumer, believes he is a “human animal,” and similarly, soldiers who survive multiple attacks think the same. Battle has wounded many, and throughout the novel the reader is given a chance to observe how soldiers return to their animal instincts of shielding from predators (the enemy) and feeding off of innocent creatures. As the novel unfolds, Remarque provides rich details of how the German soldiers were defending their patria against the English and French soldiers on the Western front during World War I. The protagonist, Paul, describes how not only were they defending their nation, but he described, “the front [a]s a cage in which [they] must await fearfully whatever may happen. [They] lie under the network of arching shells and live in a suspense on uncertainty” (Remarque 101). As the narrator, Paul does a great job at painting a picture of how the soldiers coward down in their trenches fearing the shells and grenades overhead. The soldiers are at war with the enemy, but all they wish to achieve is to come out alive at the end of all the chaos. Similarly to hiding from the terror and desperation, the soldiers, “have become wild beasts. [They] do not fight, [they] defend [them]selves against annihilation” (Remarque 113). Animal instincts kick in at the front line of the battles and Paul no longer sees himself or those fighting alongside him as men, they are wild and savage now, fighting to stay alive....
Cited: Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1982. Print.
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