All Quiet On The Western Front

This essay has a total of 1052 words and 5 pages.

All Quiet On The Western Front

The story of several schoolmates who symbolize a generation destroyed by the
dehumanisation of the First World War, All Quiet on the Western Front tells of the men who
died, and the tragically changed lives of those who survived. Remarque follows the story
of Paul Baumer, a young infantryman, from his last days of school to his death three years
later. Whereas the journey motif is typically used to portray a positive character
development, that of Paul is deliberately the opposite. In what has been dubbed the
greatest antiwar novel of all time, Remarque depicts the way in which Paul is snatched
away from humanity by the brutality of war. However while Paul and his comrades become
separated from society, and begin to rely on their basic survival instincts, in their own
surroundings they still show humane qualities such as compassion, camaraderie, support and
remorse. Paul's transformation from human to soldier begins in training camp, and is
reinforced by the trauma at the front. His return home further alienates him from society,
and Paul begins to feel safe at the front with his friends. Nonetheless throughout the
novel suffering and mortality bare Paul's true side, and he momentarily regains his former
self. Baumer, the German word for tree, is an early indication that Paul must remain
firmly rooted in reality to survive the brutality of war.

Even when the novel begins, all Paul has known is death, horror, fear, distress, and
despair. He describes the other soldiers in his company, including his German school mates
with whom he enlisted after constant lecturing from their school master, Kantorek. The
pressures of nationalism and bravery had forced even the most reluctant students to
enlist. However weeks of essential training caused any appeal the military may have held
for them to be lost. Corporal Himmelstoss, the boys' instructor, callously victimizes them
with constant bed remaking, sweeping snow, softening stiff boot leather and crawling
through the mud. While this seems to be somewhat cruel treatment, it was in fact
beneficial for the soldiers.

"…the most important result was that it awakened in us a strong, practical sense of
esprit de corps, which in the field developed into the finest thing that arose out of the
war - comradeship." (p23)

The time spent at training camp prepared the boys for what was to come, by making them
tough and brutal, while at the same time creating an army that does not stop to question
its orders. As well as this the training camp reinforced the comradeship that continued
throughout the novel.

When the boys arrive at the front, it is anything but what they had expected. Innocent and
inexperienced, Paul is broken by the first bombardment. While they had been taught that
duty to their country was the greatest thing, through suffering and fatality they quickly
learn that survival is their new purpose.

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