All quiet on the western front Summary

This essay has a total of 1398 words and 6 pages.


All quiet on the western front




The novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque describes the psychological and
physical battles of young soldiers such as the main character Paul Baumer who was
pressured by the spirit of nationalism and his school master into joining the German army
during World War I. In the beginning the young students are glowing with enthusiasm with
the honor to be trusted with serving their nation in a time of crisis. The inexperienced
soldiers soon loose their innocence and eagerness as they watch the new technological
capabilities of the twentieth century painfully kill their comrades one by one and in the
end become weary, burnt out, rootless, and hopeless. Over time the young soldiers, through
experience, begin to realize their years of schooling are completely useless in a society
filled with war. They were taught the basics of the world of work, duty, culture, and
progress when the only knowledge they need is how to survive. The author, through his
novel All Quiet on the Western Front, attempts to portray the vivid horrors and the raw
nature of war and to change the popular belief of war as an idealistic and romantic
character. This is evident through the barriers placed between Paul and the relationship
with his parents and the rest of society who still view war as glamorous and cherish his
war stories as though he were telling them a fairy tale. The novel also attempts to
explain the purposes of war and its uselessness in society. The ultimate question that
Erich Remarque raises in his novel is what did a whole generation give up their lives and
precious innocence to accomplish. All Quiet on the Western Front is a story not of
Germans, but of men, who even though “they frequently escape shells, are destroyed by the
war”. This novel have could easily been transformed into the tale of a Frenchmen, an
Englishmen, or an American fighting in World War I.

Throughout the entire novel Erich Remarque uses the characterization of Paul Baumer, a
youthful soldier, to demonstrate how war is not the glamorous, idealistic scenario that
many people make it out to be but the gory, inhumane, and inescapable experience that it
truly is. In the beginning of the novel the young student was ambitious, but as time goes
on Paul’s attitude toward life completely changes. In the beginning, he felt that there
was hope for him and that he could have a pleasant life after the war. The battle’s
invasion of the serenity and holiness of the cemetery depicts the all invasiveness of war.
Paul’s attitude began to change soon after going home on leave when he realized that he
no longer had any connections with his old community except for his school mates who also
enlisted and eventually died in the army. Even the conditions at home were hopeless as
illustrated in the moldy food, his father’s futile efforts to change the situation, and
his mother’s illness. The hopelessness of war is obvious to the reader and to Paul when
Tjaden and Paul are severely injured while attempting to protect a town. They resist
medical treatment due to the number of fatalities that result from amputation. They
realized that death was almost inescapable if they allowed themselves to be treated in
just any hospital. At the end of the novel, one of Paul’s closest friends, Katczinsky has
recently died due to a small splinter to the head as Paul was attempting to carry him to
safety on one of the last days of battle. At this moment it is evident to the reader that
because of the war this young man has lost everything that he once held including all of
the members of his class and the ability to connect with the rest of the world. In October
1918, Paul even lost his most precious commodity - his life to a stray bullet on what the
army pronounced to be still and quiet day on the entire front. It is ironic that the army
considers only a few deaths to be a peaceful and quiet day. Death has become such apart of
reality that only great quantities of deaths are even noticed. Death in war is impersonal
and faceless. This complete loss was foreshadowed in the beginning of the book with Paul’s
slow loss of connection with the rest of the world.

In the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Remarque portrays how somber and
frightful the priorities of young innocent boys are forced to be when they are placed in
the path of war. Remarque demonstrates this key theme through his ornate use of tone and
irony. A prime example of irony in the novel is when Paul, the young soldier is heading
back to the barracks when a surprise attack takes place in the graveyard. Paul surveys his
surroundings and describes it as,

“A mass of wreckage. Coffins and corpses lie strewn around. They have been killed once
again; but each of them that was flung up saved one of us.”(Remarque, 70-71.)


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