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A War with Different Enemies

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A War With Different Enemies

War novels previous to All Quiet On The Western Front, tend to romanticize the real conditions of the war, and the troubles faced by the soldiers. However, All Quiet On The Western Front, not only does not romanticize the terrible experiences of World War I, it also provides the reader with accurate and detailed portrayal of the horrors of the War. The author, Erich Maria Remarque does this by emphasizing several themes. The first theme is how the war affects each soldier, the second is the horrors of war, and the third is nationalism. Each of these themes allows the reader to enter deep into the minds of the soldiers who were fighting the war. At the beginning of the novel the author states that:

"This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war." (Remarque 4)Even by this beginning quote it is revealed that the author did not write this book to criticize, or to accuse, but he wrote the book to tell the story "of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war." (Remarque 4)

This book in my opinion, accurately portrays how the war affects the lives of soldiers during World War 1. It also shows how each of these young soldiers had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they enlisted in the war. They were all young and they were all naпve. They were fighting for what they thought was their country. They fought for their families and for their freedom. Later they realized that they did not fight an "enemy"; they fought against people like them: a person with a family and a person with a life back home. This is evident in chapter four when Paul says: "At the sound of the first droning of the shells we rush back, in one part of our being, a thousand years." (Remarque 28) As Paul describes this he paints a good picture of what happened when they first encountered battle, and what happened when they realized what they were really up against. Using the phrase "in one part of our being a thousand years" (Remarque 28) paints the picture that as they experienced the shells flying past them, they were so shocked that some went back "a thousand years" (Remarque 28), as if one just forgot about everything and was not only working on instinct. The paragraph continues to say that "we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals" (Remarque 28), meaning that as they see more and more of the war, their "fuel" is no longer patriotism, love of country, or anything except the will to survive. They unconsciously rely on instinct to survive. This point is further demonstrated by Paul when he engages in killing the Frenchman Duval. After killing him Paul finds out that the man like him had a family, and he then fully realizes that the man is not his true enemy. He even says: "Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?"(Remarque 100) However, Paul feels terrible, because he knows that this realization has come "too late", and that not everyone has realized this. When he first saw the Frenchman he saw "an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. . . . I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle;" (Remarque 100). Paul went by what he was taught, and he was taught to view a person of a different uniform or a different country as an enemy, not as just another human being. This is what I think is an important part to understand about any war. The people that go and fight are going there because they believe in something that was taught to them by others. Paul in the story went to war so that he could defend his country. He made this decision after the long talk that the teacher had with the class. They were told that their country is superior and that they must show. They were not told that when they go to battle the odds of dying are incredibly high, or how much anguish they will feel after killing someone. Simply they were told to fight, and in their young minds they believed in the cause they fighting for so much, that they overlooked the fact that they would be killing another human being. Another "poor devils like [Paul]" (Remarque 100), another man who has a family and a child. I think that if people could try to understand that when fighting a war for your country, all you are fighting for is pride, and it is not worth it, then the world would be more peaceful. If people viewed each other as just another "poor devil", instead of an American, or a French, or a Canadian, then people would see how pointless and hurtful a war really is, and how it is not worth it.

All through the book Remarque does an incredibly good job, of characterizing the everyday horrors faced by soldiers on the front line during World War 1. He not only portrays the physical strain of the war, but also the mental strain and confusion of the war, faced by each soldier. Even early in the book the author shows us this, when we learn that Kemmerich is in the hospital dying, and when Paul and his friends go to visit him. MÑŒller, upon learning that Kemmerich will die, asks for his boots. "MÑŒller is delighted at the sight of them. He matches their soles against his own clumsy boots..." (Remarque 11). MÑŒller is happy to see a good pair of boots that unlike his current boots, will not give him blisters. Unfortunately the boots were "his [Kemmerich's] most prized possessions." (Remarque 11) He found it very hard to let go of them, even though there was a chance that he would not use them. Later in this same chapter Paul is thinking about how the boots would really benefit MÑŒller, and how "the orderlies will of course grab them as soon as he is dead"(Remarque 11) so he knows that in order to get the boots, they have to come right after Kemmerich is dead. This incident is one that took a hard toll on each soldier, since it was their first dead comrade, and this incident did directly involve any gunfire, or threat. These soldiers were no "more than twenty years old", and to be able to face the shock of the war, they knew that "only the facts are real and important for [them]"(Remarque 13), just as Paul realized after the boots incident.

The third message sent in this book is a little controversial. As stated before the author at the beginning of the book said that: "This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession..." (Remarque 3). However throughout the book, the author conveys his anger towards the war through the thoughts



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