All Quiet On The Western Front

794 words - 3 pages

The introductory paragraph of All Quiet on the Western Front states that the book’s
purpose is “neither to be an accusation nor a confession.” Remarque never actually says
that the book is not to condemn. In fact, that is exactly what All Quiet is--a
condemnation. It is quite true that Remarque never accuses either side or makes any
confession, but he does in fact condemn war altogether. In a critical response to All Quiet,
Modris Eksteins says that “All Quiet was not a book about the events of the war--it was
not a memoir--but an angry postwar statement about the effects of the war on the young
generation that lived through it,” (Eksteins 336). Eksteins is correct in saying this because
an “angry postwar statement” is in essence a condemnation, and Remarque does set out to
convince readers that the young men of this generation, as a result of the war, have been
ruined.
     The novel shows the digression of the soldiers from idealistic young men with
hopes and ambition for the future to young men with the hearts and minds of old men
bombarded by the tragedies, the horrors, and the realities of war. At the end of Chapter
One, Paul is remembering his old schoolmaster, Kantorek, calling his generation the “Iron
Youth.” Such an idealistic title at one time to these young men was an inspiration, but
even at the very start of their experiences it quickly became a mockery. Looking back after
the death of their comrade Kemmerich, Paul, Kropp, and Muller reflect bitterly, “Yes,
that’s what they think, these hundred thousand Kantoreks! Iron Youth! Youth! We are
none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is long ago. We are old
folk.” From the start of the war, these young men were robbed of their idealism, and
already their ideas of the future and their places in it became distorted. For older men it
was different because for them it was “but an interruption. They [were] able to think
beyond it. We [the young soldiers], however, have been gripped by it and do not know
what the end may be. We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have
become a wasteland,” (20).
     As the novel progresses, the reader sees the “Iron Youth” become more and more
disillusioned, and one by one the reader sees the “Iron Youth” go out of existence.
Eksteins critical article quotes Remarque in 1928. He says, “The war...had shattered the
possibility of pursuing what society would consider a...

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