All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front could definitely be considered an anti-war novel. The changes the characters in the novel subjected themselves to throughout the book allow the reader to view the negative effects soldiers went through during, as well as after the war. Anti-war means that you are against the war and leaning more towards the idea of peace. This novel showed the dissatisfaction and disappointment in each character once they begun to truly understand war and battle from first-hand experience. All Quiet on the Western Front had an anti-war theme in every aspect of the book starting with the eagerness of the characters at the beginning of the war and their transformation to disappointment after the war. The description of the bloody battles, the severe causalities of the war, and the after effects on the soldiers themselves showed that the author was showing the story of WWI in a way that showed negativity towards war. By humanizing the soldiers Erich Maria Remarque allows us to understand how these young men were just like the average person fighting relentlessly for a purpose that was not even clear to them, and for little to no personal or national gain. The soldier’s ultimate goal was to survive and although they transform throughout the novel and show disappointment towards war they still had to do whatever it took in order to survive the ordeal. At the commencing of the novel the soldiers were somewhat intrigued at the thought of going to war. Their teachers spoke to them of patriotism and war as a heroic deed in which the young boys should be eager to partake. The students were before war still naïve and had an innocent perception of war, but as the story continues we notice the transformation in the characters and their behavior. By entering actual fighting grounds and seeing the truth about what went on in battle the boys altered their view on war. Having seen so many casualties and deaths started to dishearten the soldiers and led them to lose hope of survival. The appalling slaughter that was the soldier’s every day struggle resulted in the “annihilation of all human feelings” (p.194). They saw so many close ones die right before their eyes and so much horror that the eagerness of war began to fade and the realization that close emotions to others will only hurt their cause and make their survival that much more difficult began to set in. The characters concluded that feelings and emotions were not their best allies while at war. They realized that while at war if one let emotions get the best of them they may not survive. When they began to lose close friends in battle they understood it was no so easy to become a hero like their past teachers had claimed nor was it worth the pain and dehumanization that war caused. The novel depicts anti-war by describing the unpleasant yet realistic outcome of war and gathering the transformation in characteristics that went on in the youth that was involved. At first one sees that the soldiers were participating in war as if it were a regular job and they were simply following orders. The boys put no thought into the meaning of killing, or the results of their actions up until the scene where the French man Gerard Duval was killed. “Now just why would a French black smith or a French shoemaker want to attack us?” (p. 205) Kat was comprehending that the French soldiers were just like him and his friends. They were only students or regular people doing what they were told. He concluded that if it were any other circumstance that Paul and Duval would have no reason to want to harm one another. Paul felt very remorseful when he killed Duval he began to humanize him while he was trapped in the trench with Duvals’ dead body. “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...
Cited: 1) Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, trans A.W Wheen (New York: The Random House Publishing Group. 1982)
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