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Would it be difficult to live in horrible conditions, watch close friends die violently, and have the fear of dying at any moment? In All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque the soldiers living through World War I endured all of those during a very terrifying time period. In All Quiet on the Western Front, the men have to be willing to sacrifice all for nothing. They give up everything for nationalistic ideas. Their great sacrifice proves to have many effects on their lives. In the novel All Quiet on the Western Front numerous connections, literary devices, and elements of the plot show the cost of sacrifice and the effects of war.
First of all, All Quiet on the Western Front presented many central ideas connected with current issues such as the ruinous effect that war has on the soldiers who fight it. Soldiers are constantly in danger, as they could be killed or blown up at any time. This intense danger also serves as an attack on the soldiers’ nerves, forcing them to cope with instinctive fear during every moment. “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how people are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”This quote shows the effect of the soldiers’ conditions as panic filled. The only way for soldiers to live through the war is to disconnect their emotions, suppressing their feelings and accepting the conditions of their lives. Another connection that is present throughout the novel is the depiction of nationalism and political power. All Quiet on the Western Front presents the idea of nationalism to be a hollow ideology, used by those with power to control a nation. Paul and his friends are seduced into becoming soldiers by nationalist ideas, but the experience of fighting quickly schools them in nationalism’s irrelevance in the face of the war’s horrors. “It’s queer, when one thinks about it, goes on Kropp, we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right.” Remarque illustrates that soldiers on the front fight not for the glory of their nation but rather for the love of country. They believe winning the war will make the winner more nationalistic.
Additionally, in All Quiet on the Western Front there were numerous examples of figurative language in the novel. In one example of personification when there will a bombardment soon, a soldier’s connection to Earth is shown vital and similar to a mother’s love. ‘To no man does the earth mean more so much as to the soldier… she is his only friend, his brother, his mother; he stifles his terror and his cries in her silence and security; she shelters him and releases him for ten seconds to live, to run, ten seconds of life.” Earth are the soldiers’ most dependable protector that they can always rely on. Nobody else can have a soldiers’ relationship with the Earth. In another example of figurative language, Paul had just stabbed the French soldier and felt empathy for him. ‘Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if you would be sensible too. It was that abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me.” In the simile Paul hesitated and stabbed the French soldier straight after he saw him. After he had done so, he realized that the man was not different than him. He immediately felt guilty for taking the life of an innocent man, father, husband, and son.
Lastly, the elements of plot showed a theme of war affecting soldiers in an unimaginable way. The story was narrated by Paul Bäumer, a young nineteen year old man who fought in the German army on the French front in World War I. Paul and several of his friends from school joined the army after hearing the convincing patriotic speeches of their teacher, Kantorek. After experiencing weeks of brutal training from cruel Corporal Himmelstoss and the unimaginable brutality of life on the front they realized that the ideals of nationalism for which they enlisted are terrorizing. “But on the last day an astonishing number of English field guns opened up on us with high-explosive, drumming ceaselessly on our position, so we suffered heavily and came back only eighty strong.” They no longer believed that war was glorious or honorable, and they lived in constant physical terror. The German army had sent Paul’s company to the front to set up barbed wire and they got attacked, but Paul and his friends survive, though many did not. By then only thirty-two of the one hundred fifty men in Paul’s company survived. Back at camp, the men discussed what they would do after the war. It’s apparent that the younger soldiers in the group, including Paul, could not come up with anything. Their lives were lost and defined by war. Paul was later given leave and visited his hometown, where he discovers that his mother has cancer, and that the patriotic townspeople, including his father, are supportive of the war. Paul returns to his company on an intelligence mission between enemy lines, where he loses his bearings just as a French attack begins. A retreating French soldier fell on top of him and Paul stabbed the man, but later feels regret for his actions. After the shelling ends, Paul returns to camp, and is sent to guard an abandoned village. Paul and Albert get injured while on patrol, and end up in a hospital, a depressing place where doctors sometimes practice unnecessary procedures on soldiers. Albert had to have a leg amputated, but Paul recovered. Paul returned and the Germans fought on, into the summer of 1918. Over the course of time the new recruits went mad; a soldier named Detering deserts and was captured; Müller, Leer, and Kat were killed. In October of 1918, one month before the armistice was agreed to, Paul was killed on a day of otherwise quiet on the western front. The expression on the face of his dead body is calm, as though he were relieved to be dead. ‘His face has an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.”
In summation, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque teaches that the sacrifices and the effects of war take a toll on a soldier’s life. Many connections to modern day issues were made such as the terrible conditions, experiences, and the horrible effects that war has on soldiers in the novel to soldiers today. The novel also had countless examples of literary devices such as similes and personification when the soldiers were enduring hardships in the war. The elements of the plot showed the true risk of war on soldiers’ lives. Overall All Quiet on the Western Front showed how soldiers risk their lives for their country, but they also risk the loss of their personality and control of their emotions.
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