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The Great War Essay

2169 words - 9 pages

The Great War To understand the human catastrophe that was the “Great War,” it is
imperative to consider the socializing factors that shaped the
generation of men whose lives and futures were forever altered by one
of the most costly events of the twentieth century. A large, naïve
membership who had, for the most part, only known the fruits of
industrialization and the patriotic highs of nationalism, this
generation quickly found itself amidst the horrors of a modern,
technological war: an experience characterized by death, madness and
near starvation for many of its participants. Yet, out of the
ferocity and desperation, these young men discovered “the finest thing
that arose out of the war – comradeship.”[1]

In the aftermath of the First World War, authors and historians alike
have attempted to assess the impact of the tragic ordeal on its
participants. Erich Maria Remarque, renowned author of All Quiet on
the Western Front, himself served in the war and harshly critiqued the
conflict’s validity throughout his acclaimed novel. Indeed, for
Remarque, the special camaraderie shared amongst those involved,
acquired only in the annals of war, was the only positive result
amidst the deprivation and despair that defined the First World War.
Other assessments, most notably Ernst Jünger’s Der Kampf als inneres
Erlebnis, have possessed a more ‘productive’ outlook of the war.
Jünger, himself a soldier and wounded multiple times, believed the war
offered the opportunity for combatants to release their pent-up
aggressions and frustrations with modern society in the form of
militaristic violence. Furthermore, Jünger argued that such disregard
for modern social thinking would only serve to strengthen mankind and
help nurture a ‘positive’ regression to violent, ritualistic patterns
of human interaction. In a sense, the war was a heroic return to the
roots of human purity. Whilst the heart of Jünger’s argument—that the
war was a satisfying release for those involved and furthermore,
provided a positive and realistic education for the
participants—proves to be of some truth, what is most imperative to
understand is that, whilst some experiences during the war proved both
satisfying and educating for combatants, the root of these occurrences
was not the pursuit to forge manhood into a more ideal and natural
state, but rather the likely reaction to specific, though often
unexpected, consequences and situations: common responses to
grotesque and unimaginable conditions.

By drawing example from Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and
observing the common socialization and...

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