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The Horror Of War Essay

1147 words - 5 pages

“Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). In the historical fiction novel All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque relates the life of a soldier struggling to do “seek peace” in the midst of a brutal, gruesome war. Remarque’s personal experience as a soldier in World War I validates the anti-war polemic he presents through the novel. The story juxtaposes the civilian’s misconstrued idea of war as a glorious, noble duty and the horror soldiers know it to be. It also addresses the problems encountered by a soldier trying to assimilate back into the life of a civilian because of the mindset he must adopt to survive in the war. ...view middle of the document...

Remarque vividly describes a battle scene through Bäumer’s eyes, writing, “into our pierced and shattered souls bores the torturing image of the brown earth with the greasy sun and the convulsed and dead soldiers, who lie there—it can’t be helped—who cry and clutch at our legs as we spring away over them” (105). Remarque’s graphic descriptions of the violence and injuries that result from the war show his disgust with the war. “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow” (228). Bäumer makes this statement after reflecting on the pain and brokenness of the people in a hospital in which he is recovering. The war is causing him to suffer, not only physically, but mentally as well.
Often, Bäumer and his friends speculate about life without war. Bäumer knows that he will struggle to assimilate back into the life of a civilian, stating that since he was so young and “had as yet taken no root … the war swept [him] away” (24). The young age of most of the soldiers has a negative impact on their emotional state. “We have lost all feeling for one another … We are insensible, dead men, who through some trick, some dreadful magic, are still able to run and kill” (105). The war has caused Bäumer and his friends to become savage, mindless beasts only capable of destruction. Rather go mad by attempting to cope with the horrors they are experiencing, they eradicate their emotions and feelings. During a discussion about this topic, Bäumer’s friend comments, “Two years of shells and bombs—a man won’t peel that off as easy as a sock” (81). The soldiers struggle to imagine a future for themselves as regular civilians; they do not think that they can value the same things—poetry, history, and mathematics—that they did when they were innocent and carefree. Now they are overwhelmed with burdens. Another of Bäumer’s friends concludes, “The war has ruined us for everything,” and Bäumer agrees, “We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces … We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we...

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