All Quiet on the Western Front Introduction Written by Erich Maria, All Quiet on the Western Front is an extraordinary novel. Unlike other war novels that romanticize wars by portraying the themes of heroism, honor, glory, adventure and patriotic duty among others, the story concentrates on the actual battles as experienced by the soldiers. Soldiers are humans like any other and have the innate fear of danger, injury, and death. The book portrays the experiences of German soldiers by showing the sad and demoralizing tales of the threat of mortality that hang in the air.
The novel is part of a sequel entitled The Road back and provides a unique yet realistic view and analysis of wars. The author employs strategic rhetorical devices to cover numerous themes that depict the sorry state of the German soldiers and their plight in the war fronts as the discussion below portrays. The author strives to win achieve emotional, logical and ethical appeal. He presents the story through soldier. He employs the first person narration technique to recount the experiences of a soldier. The technique is strategic and equally successful since the soldier provides a representation of the war through his experiences.
Paul Bäumer, the central character and the narrator of the story, enlists in the German army at the age of eighteen. He leaves home at such a young age home for the western front where he experiences both physical and psychological torture. He explains that such was the trend with thousands of young soldiers who left schools and their teenage lives for the war. In the western front, Bäumer joins a group of dejected old soldiers, who express their frustrations openly to the young soldiers.
He stays with his schoolmates Leer, Kropp, and Müller. Staying alive is their primary duty as they gain small pieces of land, which they lose to the opposing forces. The situation is deplorable as the young soldiers endure the filthy and treacherous conditions of trench warfare. The plot of the story shows the monotony of battles and the constant threat of bombardments and artillery fire. The soldiers struggle to find food with the lack of training for the young soldiers enhancing the risk they face.
Bäumer and his colleagues have random chances at either life or death on a daily basis. He expresses dissolution and loses touch with reality as the war takes a toll on his emotional stability. The older and more experienced soldiers are not any different as they express their frustrations with the war, "We are not youth any longer. We dont want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing from ourselves, from our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world, and we had to shoot it to pieces" (Maria, 1929; pg.
124). The author of the novel addresses specific themes all of which portray the adverse effects of war. Key among the themes in the book is the horror of war. Maria presents war as a harrowing experience that causes both physical and psychological injury to the soldiers. Paul Bäumer experiences such horrors of war. They live in the constant fear of death. The deplorable living conditions in the trenches expose most of them to various diseases. Lack of training for the young soldiers picked from school intensifies the risk of death while the lack of food further worsens their experiences.
The author builds an inherent conflict between patriotic idealism and the carnage and gore in the battlefield. Paul Bäumer’s teacher Kantorek encourages them to keep fighting for their country giving all the benefits of the war for the Germans. However, the carnage and gore of the battlefield paint a different picture of the war thus proving that the worthlessness of the risk. The plot is captivating and reveals a side of wars and conflicts often ignored by most authors.
The author employs various literary devices including the first person narration technique, soliloquy, and dialogues among many others to portray the adverse effects of the war. Young Bäumer leaves home and returns while he is on leave. He explains that while the place has not changed he does not seem to belong. The experiences of the war have changed his comprehension of the society. He engages both his father and teacher in dialogues but reports that the two cannot understand him. In retrospect, All Quiet on the Western Front shows that besides the pomp and color that characterize such themes as heroism, bravery, patriotic duty, honor and adventure that characterize war stories, the soldiers in the wars face horror and the fear of death.
The novel provides a realistic view of war as it portrays soldiers as humans. The story presents the plight of young Germans picked from classrooms and placed in the war fronts to risk their lives. The Nazi regime banned and burned the novel since it threatened its propaganda war.
Reading the novel, one understands the regime’s reaction. References Maria, E. R., 1929, All Quiet on the Western Front, Munich: Propyläen Verlag.
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