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'all Quiet On The Western Front', By Erich Maria Remarque Explores A Number Of Issues Related To The Horrors Of War. Which Issue Is Most Significant To You?

1006 words - 4 pages

In the novel 'All Quiet on the Western Front', by Erich Maria Remarque, an overall devastating picture of war is created in the eyes of the reader, through the use of a highly evocative and descriptive style. Being an anti war book, 'All Quiet on the Western Front' includes many themes that emphasize the horrors of war. Amongst those themes are comradeship, deception and propaganda and alienation from society, but the strongest theme of them all seems to be the theme of youth. This theme stands out and occurs constantly throughout the novel, and relates to all the other themes. This theme of youth can be broken down into the themes of lost innocence, ageing and lost generation.Through Remarque's use of young men from different backgrounds, brought together in a war situation and slowly molded into the same type of despairing soldier, the reader can see the terrible effect of the war on all of their young lives. This method, combined with horrifying imagery, evokes feelings of sympathy in the reader.Early in the novel, Baumer- the novel's narrator and main character, notes how his elders had been facile with words prior to his enlistment. Specifically, teachers and parents had used words, passionately at times, to persuade him and other young men to enlist in the war effort. After relating the tale of a teacher who exhorted his students to enlist, Baumer states that "teachers always carry their feelings ready in their waistcoat pockets, and trot them out by the hour. But we didn't think of that then." (p. 15). This emphasizes the theme of lost innocence, as Baumer and his friends now know that they were fooled by this rhetorical trickery. Parents, too, were not averse to using words to shame their sons into enlisting as, "At that time even one's parents were ready with the word 'coward'" (p. 15). Remembering those days, Baumer asserts that, as a result of his war experiences, he has learned how shallow the use of these words was. He is no longer innocent; the experiences of war have changed his view on life.As the novel progresses, the characters' experiences of war combined with their already lost innocence, evokes in their souls a devastating feeling of ageing. The author uses this metaphorical ageing to illustrate how changed the soldiers have become. Those who were, quite recently, interested in physics, literature or arts, have now lost their passion. Their lives merely revolve around the war. Kantorek, the soldier's teacher, uses an idealistic, patriotic, and poetic rhetoric to convey the concepts of national loyalty and glory. In his letter to the young men, for instance, he calls them "Iron Youth," implying that they are hard, strong, and resilient, a description that fails to consider the horror of the war, which traps the men in a constant state of panic and despair. Amid the horrific violence and numbness, the overblown phrases of nationalistic rhetoric quickly lose...

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