The comparison between "All quiet on the Western front" by Erich Maria Remarque and "Slaughterhouse 5" by Kurt Vonnegut

Topics: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, World War II Pages: 7 (2343 words) Published: March 4, 2007
When writing literary works most, authors will agree that it is difficult to write a story without any inspiration. The writers will often have some motive, either from past experiences or something that can inspire an idea for a novel. Although the novel can be fictitious it can still change how society feels about a certain issue. The two novels All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut romanticizes what war is like, emphasizing ideas such as glory, horror, honor, patriotic duty, and adventure. The similarities include both authors have their impression that the absurdity of war is morally wrong, how soldiers act as toys in the sandbox being played with higher authorities. Both novels feature the society of young men to be controlled and sent to their demise with little hope. The differences between the two novels is that both novels feature a different approach on how the novel flows. Vonnegut moves the story in humorous manner whereas Remarque tells it in a serious manner.

The obvious comparison when exploring the two novels is the aspect that they are antiwar novels. In Slaughterhouse 5, Vonnegut is trying to express his point of view, or sway the readers to understand the negative properties of war since the firebombing of the German town Dresden during World War II. The protagonist Billy Pilgrim is the antiwar hero because he does not fit the description of the usual war hero. "He didn't look like a soldier at all. He looked like a filthy flamingo" (Vonnegut, 33) Billy's character is a customary figure of fun in the American Army. Billy is no exception. He is powerless to harm the enemy or to help his friends. He wears no medals, his physical appearance and build is a mockery and his faith in loving Jesus troubles most soldiers. (Lichtenstein) Vonnegut realizes that war is inevitable, it's like death. Even if Billy were to train hard, wear the proper uniform, and be a good soldier he might still die like the rest of the others in Dresden. Billy lives in a life with indignity and is not afraid of death, and in accordance to the Traflamadorian philosophy of accepting death. By uttering the phrase "so it goes" the narrator points out the meaningless slaughter after every death, no matter how ironic, sarcastic or random. "On the eighth day, the hobo died. So it goes. His last words were, "You think this is bad? This ain't bad."" (Vonnegut 79) "But the candles and soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communist and other enemies of the state. So it goes" (Vonnegut, 96) Billy always sees death coming, but nothing he can do about it. In chapter 10, at the end of novel Vonnegut shows the reader how there is nothing intelligent to say after the massacre of Dresden,

"Billy and the rest wandered out onto the shady street. The trees were leafing out. There was nothing going on out there, no traffic of any kind. There was only one vehicle, an abandoned wagon drawn by two horses. The wagon was green and coffin-shaped.

Birds were talking.

One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, "Poo-tee-weet?"

(Vonnegut, 215)

It is obvious when everyone is dead it is suppose to be quiet, but the bird who says "Poot-tee-weet?" symbolizes the lack of anything intelligent to say about war. It is the only appropriate thing to say, since no words can describe the horror on the firebombing of Dresden.

Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front presents its reader with the harsh reality of war. The novel sets out to portray war and the actual experiences, replacing the romantic picture of glory and heroism with a decidedly unromantic vision of terror, vanity, and slaughter. The novel takes place during World War I and in the perspective of a German soldier, Paul Baumer the protagonist. Stylistically the novel consists of short chapters that symbolize the quick pace of death in the novel. For example in chapter one Remarque already introduces the...

Bibliography: Lichtenstein, Jesse and Douthat, Ross. SparkNote on Slaughterhouse-Five. 1 May. 2005 <.
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front
London: Vintage, 1996.
Vonnegute, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-five
New York: Dell Publishing, 1986.
Ward, Selena and Hopson, David. SparkNote on All Quiet on the Western Front. 1 May. 2005 .
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