Dehumanization in Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front
Winston Churchill always said, “You ask: what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, no matter how long and hard the world may be; for without victory, there is no survival.” In Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, victory is seen as the only option. The soldiers in the novel do whatever it takes like acting before thinking or ignoring any possible consequences in order to emerge victorious. Paul and his comrades are exposed constantly to violence, jumpstarting a dehumanizing process that forces them to rely on animal instinct. This necessary instinct is the only thing that keeps them alive during war, but it also changes them internally leaving them with a different mindset.
To survive the war, soldiers have to sacrifice any logical instinct or emotion and fight on animal instinct. They start out level-minded, but when they reach the front all that changes, as Paul believes when he says, “We march up, moody or good tempered soldiers – we reach the zone where the front begins and become on instinct human animals” (56). This animal instinct is necessary for their survival. When they are put in a situation concerning warfare, their mind adapts to the environment and begins to think of the enemy as targets, rather than human beings. It is simply a defensive mechanic that allows them to save themselves without the feeling of guilt. Paul’s opinion is that, “We have become wild beasts. We do not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation…No longer do we lie helpless, waiting on the scaffold, we can destroy and kill, to save ourselves; to save ourselves and be revenged” (113). They are so preoccupied with fighting and staying alive, that their emotions completely disappear. This is proven by Paul’s thoughts: “If your own father came over with them you would not hesitate to fling a bomb at him”...
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