The novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” by E.M. Remarque describes horror reality of the World War I. In particular, the novel is a powerful story about the illusions created by the war. With novel progression the author is trying to depict vividly and impressively what war means in reality and what psychological consequences it may cause in soldiers who see death every minute.
The author has managed to portray true horrors of the war experiences and events, as well as to depict awakening of many young soldiers who voluntarily fought on the front. Young German soldier Paul Baumer serves in France volunteered for the war. Actually, his school teacher persuades students that world glory is waiting for Germany in the near future, and a young boy decides to make Germany stronger and more powerful without hesitations.
Baumer with his friends go to the front filled with patriotic and glorious ideas that they will be glorified when returning home. Nevertheless, the reality appears completely different as young boys expected. Rather quickly the main hero realizes that Western Front is nothing more than violence, misery and innocent deaths. Paul is shocked seeing that his friends are injured or dead.
That is the turning point of the novel as young soldier starts thinking about his own life, destiny, family and, what is more important, he wonders how to survive the war and later the world without war. He understands that he has changed psychologically and morally. Remarque provides short explanation of his intentions before the novel opens he writes: “This book is neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war”. (p.ii)
In such a way the author set the tone and the mood of the novels showing that war is not a game as it brings deaths and moral devastation. Remarque claims that every soldier, not considering the side he is fighting, is faced by the same feelings and worries. The feelings are easily conveyed as the author keeps simple prose which is easy to read and understand. Using simple words the author presents great horrors of the war as casual events stuffing everyday life.
It is necessary to underline that the author is able to instill the grotesque images and events being faced by common soldiers at war. The author doesn’t need painting complicated pictures and complex characters. The reality of the war is as simple as the character of every hero as war is death and misery – all soldiers are filled with the same feelings. With a few words Remarque manages to provide reader with all necessary information about heroes, war reality, ways of survival, etc.
One more point to appreciate is that the author keeps simple language in vocabulary of the soldiers. Depicting the life on the front lines the author analysis the psychological changes in soldiers. For example, in several scenes the soldiers are guessing the reasons they decided to go to the front lines.
Paul and other soldiers often remember the school speeches about the glory and honor they will be provided with after they defend their Motherland. They can’t understand who is right and who is wrong wondering what they are fighting for. One of the soldiers argues: “One people offends the other”, whereas another says: “Then I haven’t any business here at all. I don’t feel myself offended”. (p.204) The novel provides very realistic and eye-opening view of horrors of the war.
There may be times when war seems unavoidable, but the author shows that it is necessary to find ways to resolve the conflict peacefully to save millions of innocent lives and lives of those soldiers who are caught by the war illusions. Nevertheless, there are those who are ready to refer to the slightest provocations to break out war pursuing own interests. I think that people must read such books as they will be more cautious about war reality and its psychological consequences. The book can be recommended for every person who wants to get acquainted with ‘real’ literature.
Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.