The First World War erupted only a decade into the twentieth century, and it defined civilizations for many subsequent years. Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Ernst Jünger’s The Storm of Steel both concern this war, however the two offer different perspectives of the war and its effects on societies and soldiers. The contrast between their accounts is seen in reactions to the enemy, feelings upon killing an “enemy” soldier, opinions of death in war, and reaction to the war as a whole, however a similarity exists in the war’s impact on both.
The most visible display of Paul Bäumer’s identification with, sympathy for, and empathy with men who are supposed to be his enemy occurs when he finds that a Russian prison camp alongside their camp. “It is strange to see these enemies of ours so close up,” Bäumer states, “… they look just as kindly as our own peasants” (Remarque 258). Though Jünger and Bäumer see the enemy in entirely different lights, they both realize them as human. Jünger, in his preface to the English edition, says there is much in common between enemies: a similar experience of war and a similar personal growth offered by war.
Both Jünger and Remarque discuss their respective reactions to encountering the death of their enemy, though their reactions differ greatly. Remarque offers, through Bäumer, an immense guilt, as if he’d stabbed himself when stabbing the enemy. “He has an invisible dagger with which he stabs me: Time and my thoughts” (Remarque 299). Bäumer is seriously shaken by his experience of killing another soldier, and feels as if he’s robbed himself of life. Bäumer continues, “My state is getting worse I can no longer control my thoughts” (Remarque 301). Jünger describes his interaction causing the death of his enemy in a brief, concise, unaffected story. “My Englishman lay in front of it, a mere lad. I had shot him right through the head. It is a strange feeling to look into the eyes of a man whom you have...
Cited: Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. New York City: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2013. eBook.
Jünger, Ernst. The Storm of Steel. London: Chatto & Windus, 1929. Print.
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