Sunday, October 24, 2010

"All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque

"All Quiet on the Western Front" takes place on Germany's western front towards the end of World War 1. The story is narrated by a young German infantry soldier named Paul Bäumer. Paul and a group of his friends were "persuaded" to join the war by stirring nationalistic speeches glorifying war and making it out to be a wonderful event, given by their professor Kantorek. Though before long Paul and his friends realize that this is anything but true.
The first of the group of friends to die was Franz Kemmerich. Kemmerich dies not directly from wounds in the war, but a fatal gangrene infection from the terrible conditions the soldiers must endure on a daily basis. Before dying, Franz tells Paul that he wants his prized pair of boots to be given to a friend from their group Muller. This is when Paul learns to disconnect himself from his emotions in order to survive the war. Paul also learns from this how cruel war truly can be.
Later in the book when Paul and his comrades are sitting down to some stew made by a friend, the group discusses war. They believe that instead of going to war and losing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives for petty reason, the leaders of feuding nations should fight to the death to settle their differences.“The war has ruined us for everything. We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm" (87), is spoken by Paul. He is saying that if he does survive the war, he and his friends will not be able to live normal lives. The war has changed who they are and has destroyed any chances of them functioning normally in society.
After a short leave, Paul goes back to war and is caught behind enemy lines. This is when the climax of the book happens. When Paul is hiding in a mortar shell hole, a french soldier jumps in next to him without seeing Paul. Paul instinctively takes out his knife and cuts the Frenchman's throat. Although Paul has probably taken many lives during his fighting before this, this kill makes Paul feel a deep remorse. Before, Paul could not see the killing and damage he was doing to other soldiers, but now, he has personally seen a fellow soldier be killed. Paul reasons that he and the French soldier are the same because they are both in a war that they do not want to be in.
The theme of "All Quiet on the Western Front" is simply war is hell. Every single one of Paul's original group of friends dies by the end of the novel, including Paul himself. War does not care who dies or who lives, it just exists to kill. The day Paul dies, a field report is sent out reading only one sentence: "All quiet on the Western Front," as to say one death is an insignificant loss in war.

1.) Throughout the entire book, war is portrayed as a horrible thing that is an unnecessary abomination. Do you believe war is needed. If yes, why? If no, how can feuding countries settle their differences?
2.) "Now if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope. We will not be able to find our ways any more (294)." Paul is describing what his life will be like after the war. Do you believe that soldiers after a war will be able to function normally in society after witnessing pain, suffering, and death?


Avi D. 7/8 said...

1. War is absolutely necessary. It is one of the few ways we settle our disputes. Without war, hostilities may not end and a bitter rivalry will emerge from two or more countries.
2. Soldier will have always seen something others around them have not. Whether they can live with or not has to do with their own personality. However, the person who has witnessed war will always be a little more different than the one who has not.

Lottie W. 7-8 said...

1. I think that war is a rather moronic way of settling disputes among nations. It does nothing but kill thousands and bring pain and destruction. But I can see how it could be a necessary evil. Some wars were caused by misunderstandings but others were caused by some corrupt person that wanted to concur another nation. Without going to war with that corrupt person, they would be allowed free reign and run amuck. Over all, war is devastating but sometimes certain situations call for it if one wishes to survive.
2. Soldiers will always have some sort of physiological trauma after witnessing the horrors of war. Some would be able to live somewhat normally while others would be unable to. It has to do with their emotional and mental stability. But even if they did have the strength to continue trying to live normally, there would always be a part of themselves that they have lost.

Spencer P. 1-2 said...

Avi D., you say war is necessary, but is settling a dispute worth hundreds of thousands of lives? Surely there has to be a more civilized way to deal with problems between countries that don't involve the deaths of so many innocent people.

Spencer P. 1-2 said...

Lottie W., I agree with what you are saying, but do you think there is an alternative to war that does not involve deaths and destruction but is also an efficient way of settling problems?

Sarah N. 7-8 said...

2. I think that a soldier will always have some sort psychological effect from a war. Some people may be able to deal with the trauma of war differently than others, but it effects them just the same.

Lottie W. 7-8 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lottie W. 7-8 said...

Spencer P., most wars are caused by a different set of views and morals. I think that a lot of wars could be avoided if the nations were to possibly come to some sort of accord. But again, there are other wars that are caused because of evil people, who would most likely not accept any sort of compromise. I'd say that quite a few of the wars we've faced and will most likely face could be avoided if the countries first tried to talk it over with one another instead of plunging head long into war. If it were a war with someone that couldn't be swayed by their want to destroy and concur, then I have to say that death and some destruction is sadly unavoidable.

Kyle N.1-2 said...

1. I think war is unavoidable, but it is also unneccessary. It may sound confusing, but let me explain. There will always be leaders who declare war on other countries for religious wars and other reasons. But there are other ways to settle things, like at the diplomatic table or trading.

2. Soldiers that were in action will always have problems. That's why you see so many soldiers today with PTSD- post-traumatic stress disorder. It occurs after soldiers return home but they still are not at peace inside, they have nightmares, jump at slight noises, etc.

Morgan O 7-8 said...

1) I wish that war were unnecessary and it would be if everyone in the world thought that way, but not everyone does. Sadly one person ordering others to pick up weapons and attack can lead the world to war. Countries can settle their arguments by compromise but sometimes people feel that is not enough. Some cultures believe it is their soul purpose to kill another. Though I wish that this was not the case, war is necessary when it involves people who are unwilling to compromise.

2) I think it is hard for soldiers to go back into society for three reasons:
1. They dehumanize other people in their minds so much just to be able to live with killing others, that once they return to society it will be hard for them to connect to people that they once had common interests with.
2. Taking another persons life is a horrible thing and these soldiers understand that. They are able to live with it while they are on the battle field because it is kill or be killed out there but once they return to society it hits them how much damage they have done.
3. People can try to imagine what soldiers have been through but the truth is they will never know unless they actually experience it. I think it is hard for soldiers to connect to others who are trying to sympathize with them because these people have no idea what the person is going through.

Adam B. 7-8 said...

I think that it takes time for soldiers to be able to act normally in society. The trauma they experience can have long lasting effets that affecting how they act in society. It all depends on how they handle this trauma as to whether or not they can function in society.