"...no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both."
-- Abraham Flexner
"Regeneration" is an anti-war novel, reflecting the issues and the
concerns in wartime Britain. "All Quiet on the Western Front" is also an
influential anti-war novel and an important chronicle of World War 1.
Both are historical fiction set near the end of the war, 1917-1918.
The two texts explore similar themes in condemning the war. Remarque’s
novel (All Quiet on the Western Front) is a profound statement against
war, focusing especially on the ravaging effects of war on the
humanity of soldiers. Similarly, Barker (author of Regeneration)
offers realistic detail of many abominable war scenes, dwelling upon
the destruction that war wreaks upon men’s minds. These details
comprise a large portion of the novel.
In All Quiet on the Western Front, through the narrative of Paul
Bäumer, a young German soldier, there are constant attacks on the
romantic ideals of warfare. The novel dramatizes the disjunction
between high minded rhetoric about patriotism and honour, and the
actual horror of trench warfare. Remarque continually stresses that
the soldiers are not fighting with the abstract ideals of patriotic
spirit in mind; they are fighting for their survival. Nothing in this
novel makes the actual experience of war look attractive.
The overriding theme of All Quiet on the Western Front is the terrible
brutality of war, which informs every scene in the novel. It sets out
to portray war as it was actually experienced, replacing romanticized
versions in preceding novels, with a decidedly unromantic vision of
fear, meaninglessness, and butchery. World War 1 completely altered
mankind’s conception of military conflict with its catastrophic levels
of carnage and violence, its battles that lasted for months, and its
gruesome new technological advancements (e.g., machine guns, poison
gas) that made killing easier and more impersonal than ever before.
Remarque’s novel dramatizes these aspects of World War 1 and portrays
the mind-numbing terror and savagery of war with a relentless focus on
the physical and psychological damage that it occasions. At the end of
the novel, almost every major character is dead, epitomizing the war’s
devastating effect on the generation of young men who were forced to
In its depiction of the horror of the war, All Quiet on the Western
Front presents a scathing critique of the idea of nationalism, showing
it to be a hollow, hypocritical ideology, a tool used by those in
power to control a nation’s populace. Paul and his friends are seduced
into joining the army by nationalistic ideas, but the experience of
fighting quickly schools them in nationalism’s irrelevance in the face
of the war’s horrors. The relative worthlessness on the battlefield of
the patriots, Kantorek (former schoolmaster in Paul’s high school) and