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Politics of All Quiet on the Western Front

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Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front is without a doubt one of the most real adaptations of World War I and the effects on its participants that has ever been written. With its simple, clear cut, and to the point style of writing, it is able to capture as close to the true experience of the war as possible. Because of this, readers do not have to search through pages of fancy wording and over the top descriptions to find the reality of what Remarque is saying. War is not something to be romanticizedÐ'--it is a bleak and devastating circumstance and the true experiences of the people involved should be remembered as such. Because Remarque was so blunt and open with the genuineness of these experiences, no matter how negative or shocking they may have been, All Quiet on the Western Front became an instant success and maybe more importantly an instant controversy in Europe.

Because the demand for leisure activity such as reading, watching films, etc. was skyrocketing at this time in European culture, the exposure to this book was extremely widespread, and people's eyes were opened to a whole new side of the war. Those on the home front were not directly exposed to the fighting of World War I and its brutality, so their only impression of it came from what they were told. Until writers, artists, and others that had been involved in the fighting began to share the reality of their experiences, Europeans received only the romanticized version of the war from their leaders and others who benefited from this one sided version of the story being told. In turn, while people all over the world flocked to stores to buy this book, it had many Europeans in an uproar about the way they were portrayed. All Quiet on the Western Front indeed carried many political implications that may or may not have been intended by Remarque.

A recurring theme throughout the book is the danger and even hypocrisy often caused by blind nationalism. It was particularly critical of and offended those nationalists who had earnestly supported the war effort throughout and who honestly did not believe that Germany had yet been defeated. This not only offended "patriotic" Germans on the home front, but was a huge slap in the face to military officers whose reputations as leaders were on the line. Not to mention the fact that the controlling Nazi Party in Germany was nationalistic in its most extreme form, and any doubt that their point of view was of merit was obviously was a huge threat in their eyes. They feared that this book, with such a widespread influence, would undermine their power and control over the German people. This theme is vividly illustrated through the character of Kantorek, the boys' teacher who filled their heads with passionate, yet empty, talk of glory and duty to country. It was virtually impossible for the boys in his class to refuse to enlist because he bullied and humiliated anyone that even hesitated to do so. His hypocrisy, however, is revealed when he is drafted late in the war and makes a terrible soldier. His patriotism and enthusiasm about the war quickly turns to fear and cowardice when he is placed on the front with the other soldiers that he so blindly pressured into signing what eventually turned out to be their death warrants. They trusted Kantorek and his authority prior to the war, but soon they remarked that "The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces." Remarque greatly emphasizes the soldiers' disappointment in and feelings of betrayal from all authority figures who they feel set the war in motion, but did nothing to help the cause in battle. In fact, Kropp, one of the soldiers, proposed the following:

A declaration of war should be a kind of popular festival with entrance-tickets and bands, like a bullfight. Then in the arena, the ministers and generals of the two countries, dressed in bathing drawers and armed with clubs, can have it out amongst themselves. Whoever survives, his country wins. That would be much simpler and more just than this arrangement, where the wrong people do the fighting.

The soldiers in the book felt as though they were simply puppets controlled by those above them in rank and world experience. How were they to know at such a young age that the very people they trusted to teach them about life and the ways of the world would eventually lead them astray to fight for a cause that they didn't even understand? The fact that this book acknowledged this question and raised eyebrows around the world about the validity of German military and political leaders, as well as nationalists in general, rubbed many Germans the wrong way. They understandably did not want to be seen as a country that forced millions of unprepared and unknowing boys into a war they didn't support that would eventually cause them to lose their livelihoods, if not their life entirely.

To add to German feelings of disgust towards the novel, characters such as Corporal Himmelstoss, the boys' training camp officer, represented the fact that during World War 1, anyone who was given power would abuse it, and the less important they were before the war, the more cruel and tyrannical they would become with power. He was the epitome of this pointless abuse. He represents the meanest, most disgusting aspects of humanity drawn out by war, which obviously reflected extremely poorly on the image of German officers. Not only was he cruel, but he also poorly trained those under his command, making them perform pointless drills and other military formalities instead of preparing them for battle. This showcasing of the German army's unpreparedness also did not sit well with its supporters.

Because of people like Himmelstoss, Kantorek, the Kaiser, etc., the soldiers in the book began to feel a strong disconnect between themselves and the people from whom they were taking ordersÐ'--the same people who led the country they were supposedly fighting, and dying, to defend. They came to have only resentment for these figures and found their only respite in the other soldiers who were with them on the battlefield. This fact led to other illustrations of the soldiers' attitudes during



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