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Dehumanization of Warfare - All Quiet on the Western Front

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"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, science for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignorable war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

-Albert Einstein

Warfare has been prevalent throughout human existence, from the Stone Age up to the modern day; it has always been the ultimate way to solve quarrels between men. With warfare come destruction, death, injury, and suffering; there has never been a conflict without these four principles. World War One was the most horrific war up to its time, with more military casualties than any other war before it. Erich Maria Remarque wrote the novel All Quiet on the Western Front to portray the horror and carnage from a soldier's point of view. One of the major underlying themes in this novel is the universal effect of warfare on the soldier. The characters in the novel offer insight of how the war truly affects them and also reveal the true nature of war to the reader. War is a destructive force that, through artillery bombardments, gas and machine guns, permanently transforms a soldier, whether it is physical destruction (loss of limb or life), emotional or mental destruction (no longer portrays human-like qualities). Exposure to warfare destroys the common soldier emotionally, mentally and physically.

The relentless exposure to violence will ultimately destroy the common soldier's emotions and dehumanize him to the state of an animal. While dead or maimed friends and foe surround the soldier, he must shut out all feelings of grief and remorse in order not to collapse emotionally. If the soldier were to completely break down or have his thoughts occupied by a lost friend, he would endanger his own life; therefore he must be "reinforced with dullness" (p.231) so that "[we] do not go to pieces before the horror" (p231). The "dullness", is a complete desensitization that the soldier must undergo in order to survive which, unfortunately, permanently alters his personality and "lends him the indifference of wild animals and destroys his feelings" (p. 231). All feelings that the soldier had are gone, and without feeling, the soldier shows no emotion, and without emotion, the soldier is reverted to an animal-like state of mind and no longer portrays human qualities. Therefore, after exposure to the brutal violence that manifests warfare, the common soldier's emotions will be destroyed.

The extremely dangerous conditions on a battlefield will permanently alter the common soldier's mental structure, which leads to the destruction of his being. In order for a soldier to survive traumatic events on a battlefield, such as artillery bombardments, he must possess an instinct that build up over time. The instinct exhibits animal-like qualities, for "a soldier may not even realize what he is doing lying on the ground until half of a second later, a storm of fragments flies harmlessly overhead" (p. 122); it is animal nature to focus on survival, and it is this natural instinct that manifests the soldier's mind, but "the soldier's mind is forever altered" (p. 58). The human intelligence once possessed by a soldier is overshadowed by an animal-like state of mind that is focused on survival, for the battlefield is a dangerous place, and at any moment, the soldier could be killed. The possession of this unique frame of mind may allow the soldier to survive the battlefield, but it will remain with him for the rest of his life and keep him in an animal-like state of mind. When the war torn soldier is living during peacetime for example, everyday sounds may constantly remind him of the horror and psychological trauma he endured: "I have been startled a couple of times in the street by the screaming of the tramcars, which resembles the shriek of a shell, and I dive for cover" (p, 143). The soldier can be affected by this primal instinct years after his battlefield experiences, and quite consequently, he will never feel like he is at peace. Any man who has endured artillery bombardments will forever hold the animal-like mental qualities evoked by warfare and will never have the same human thought processes again; those of peace. Therefore, traumatic events induced by warfare will destroy the soldier's regular mental



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