All Quiet on the Western Front Study Guide

All Quiet on the Western Front Study Guide

Original title:
Im Westen nichts Neues
March 12th 1987 by Ballantine (first published January 29th 1929)
Germany, 1914 France, 1918
ISBN 0449213943 (ISBN13: 9780449213940)

Novels about the war are never an easy reading. Combined with Erich Maria Remarque detailed style and objective perspective, “All Quiet On The Western Front” is a great piece of war narrative that will make your eyes open.

It’s easy to romanticize war: our brains are wired to justify sacrifice and turn negative into positive. And many literary creations, despite depicting the daily horrors of the World War I and II, still tend to deliver that honor and pride behind their text lines. Remarque’s unique feature is that he managed to stay away from it and write a highly acclaimed yet realistic novel.

The protagonist of the story is a German soldier, Paul Baumer, he is a pilot who wanted to be part of the armed forces inspired by the speeches of his teacher. It took him and his friends only 10 weeks of training, humiliation by the commanders, and unlivable conditions at the front to realize that patriotism isn’t a feeling but a well-crafted manipulation. Slowly people leave the battalion and never come back to the front.

The meaning and main concepts of the book are in its minor details: wanting to have the boots of a friend who is dying after amputation, demanding the cook to give out the food portions that were meant for the dead men, and etc. Such mundane wishes and events are mixed up with philosophical discussions about equality in the army, the insignificance of humane life, and political decisions.

It’s hard to be a soldier at the war. But it doesn’t get much better upon return. Back home many soldiers continue experiencing stress and feeling separated, misunderstood, and unappreciated. They preserve the skill of disconnecting the emotions and disregarding the feelings.

There are many reasons why this book used to be banned by Nazi in Germany but there are even more of them to spend a couple of evenings reading it. There are lots of grief and hatred, fear, and courage, despair and sympathy. But most of all, there are lots of emotions and experiences to learn from.

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