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Autor: anton 02 January 2011
Words: 873 | Pages: 4
In the first world war, soldiers enlisted without second thought. Given no reason to fight but for the glory of their country, they gladly laid their lives on the line. However, they had no idea what was in store for them. The novel All Quiet on the Western Front is a perfect example of this. Like Paul BÐ“Â¤umer and his friends in the book, the soldiers had no idea that they would see no glory, but simply war. This war changed their lives in such a way that if they did not die physically, they were dead inside long before the war came to an end.
Simply put, war is war. And in only a manor that war can provide, these soldiers described in the book were forever changed. Though statistics show that not every man died in the war, each and every one was a casualty. War changed these young boys into hardened men, incapable of sympathy. In the line of war, it was only a matter of time before one died. Whether by a bullet, a shell, a mine, or a terrible realization, everyone who entered the war alive came out of it dead. Remarque writes that “We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial-I believe we are lost (123).” He knew that after the war, there was nothing for him. The war had emblazoned itself upon his mind and there was no way to remove its image. The war stripped his life away from him in such a way that made the war the only thing left in him.
Is it any wonder why these thoughts and feelings became commonplace for the soldiers? Remarque uses very simple yet vivid imagery in such a way as to portray his and other soldiers’ attitudes. “Beside me a lance-corporal has his head torn off. He runs a few steps more while the blood spouts from his neck like a fountain (115).” It is not nearly so much how this scene is described as the indifference that was used when writing it that shows how the soldiers truly felt. Even in simply reading that line, one is shaken to the core, but it is written in the same sense as a mundane task such as marching. This indiscrimination is truly disturbing. After even a short time in war, the soldiers carry on when these things happen because they happen all the time. However, this state of mind is the simplest one needed to survive the war physically. Any thought pattern more emotionally attached surely spelled death.
It is not until BÐ“Â¤umer finds himself trapped in a shell hole with a dying French soldier that he reaches his final state of mind. At this point he realizes that he is not just fighting and killing “the enemy,” but other human beings. It had now dawned on him the truly horrific scene that the war had lain before him. From this point on, it is an entirely downward spiral. His friends and former classmates, one by one are picked off. In the end, he is alone. Everyone he once knew had perished and he knew only too well that he was next. In October of 1918, his life was physically ended. But he was dead long before the bullet had its chance to reach him.
As sad as it is to say it, BÐ“Â¤umer was one of the lucky ones in getting to die physically before the war was through. Had he survived, surely he would have been completely aimless in his life thereafter. It is simple to spot a veteran of this war. Simply look for the empty stare and the lifeless eyes with no soul behind them. Erich Maria Remarque was unfortunate enough to “live” through the war and he surely has become something like this. Through his novels it is possible that he has rekindled life back into himself, if only to tell others of the horrors he has been through. Even so, he surely is not the same man he would have been without the war. His soul may be alive, but it is merely a shadow of what it was before the war took its toll on him. Sadly, this happens to nearly every soldier who saw such combat. The front line was no place for boys. On the front lines, boys either became men or they became another filled grave. Caring for lost lives meant instant death. So the soldiers hardened themselves to it. They created a paradox for themselves: save one’s soul and lose one’s body or save one’s body and lose one’s soul. Some, such as BÐ“Â¤umer, lost both.
In the future, when we think of war, we cannot be so patriotic and nationalistic as to rush headlong into our own demise. We must realize what we are doing. In those days as likely the same as these, signing up to go to war was just as good as signing your own death certificate. In war you cannot kill another without killing yourself a little. And as has been said before, and Remarque would surely agree, war is hell.
Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982
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