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All Quiet On The Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque

1354 words - 5 pages

Through the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, novelist Erich Maria Remarque provides a commentary on the dehumanizing tendencies of warfare. Remarque continuously references the soldiers at war losing all sense of humanity. The soldiers enter the war levelheaded, but upon reaching the front, their mentality changes drastically: “[they] march up, moody or good tempered soldiers – [they] reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals” (Remarque 56). This animal instinct is essential to their survival. When in warfare, the soldiers’ minds must adapt to the environment and begin to think of the enemy as objects rather than human beings. It is this defensive mechanism that allows the soldiers to save themselves from the feeling of guilt, yet also desensitizes them and causes the loss of humanity. At one point, Paul states “we have become wild beasts. We do not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation…No longer do we lie helpless, waiting on the scaffold, we can destroy and kill, to save ourselves, to save ourselves and be revenged” (Remarque 113). All Quiet on the Western Front admonishes both the horrors of combat and its dehumanizing tendencies by showing soldiers, regurgitated by the machine that is war, turned into animate objects incapable of emotion.
One method that Remarque employs to convey the dehumanization of soldiers during war occurs in the constant, remorseless killing throughout the novel. This brutal murder demonstrates that the soldiers have lost all emotion they may have previously had. On the front, the men must be emotionless: they cannot have sorrow for the fallen, or feel for the ones they killed. The soldiers in the novel see grotesque and inappropriate images not seen by the average man. However, due to a loss of emotion, they only think about their duties: “We have lost all feeling for one another. We can hardly control ourselves when our glance lights on the form of some other man. We are insensible, dead men, who through some trick, some dreadful magic, are still able to run and to kill” (Remarque 116). Paul’s description of himself and his comrades does not sound human; rather, it sounds as if he were describing a pack of wolves. Furthermore, when Paul becomes trapped in the middle ground during a skirmish, he realizes he must defend himself. A French soldier jumps into his hole, forcing Paul to kill him. Paul “strike[s] madly at home and feel[s] only how the body suddenly convulses” without any thought (Remarque 216). The language employed by Remarque suggests Paul’s behavior is animalistic and brutal. His mad stabs into the body of the Frenchman imply the violent and impersonal nature of man that coincides with war.
Yet another example of the brutalization and dehumanization of the soldiers caused by the war occurs during Paul’s leave. On leave, Paul decides to visit his hometown. While there, he finds it difficult to discuss the war and his experiences with anyone....

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