All Quiet on the Western Front


Word Count: 944

Maria Remarque\'s All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the
greatest war novels of all time. It is a story, not of Germans, but of
men, who even though they may have escaped shells, were
destroyed by the war. The entire purpose of this novel is to
illustrate the vivid horror and raw nature of war and to change the
popular belief that war is an idealistic and romantic character. The
story centers on Paul Baümer, who enlists in the German army with
glowing enthusiasm. But in the course of war, he is consumed by it
and in the end is "weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without
hope." Through Baümer, Remarque examines how war makes man
inhuman. He uses excellent words and phrases to describe crucial
details to this theme. "The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in
our hearts." Baümer and his classmates who enlisted into the army
see the true reality of the war. They enter the war fresh from school,
knowing nothing except the environment of hopeful youth and they
come to a premature maturity with the war, their only home. "We
were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had
to shoot it to pieces. We are not youth any longer." They have lost
their innocents. Everything they are taught, "the world of work,
duty, culture, and progress" are not the slightest use to them
because the only thing they need to know is how to survive. They
need to know how to escape the shells as well as the emotional and
psychological torment of the war. The war takes an heavy toll on the
soldiers who fight in it. The terror of death will infest the minds of
soldiers and bring about horrible images of death and destruction
until they break down and go to pieces. "Every hour and everyday,
every shell and every death cuts this thin [line of sanity], and the
years waste it rapidly." In these dangerous moments, anybody
would have gone mad, have deserted their post, or have fallen. It
takes a special kind of soldier to deal with this emotional abuse; a
soldier who will not go to pieces at the sight of a mutilated body; it
takes a soldier like Baümer. Baümer has "grown accustomed to it;
war is the cause of death like influenza and dysentery. The deaths
are merely more frequent, more varied and terrible." He has rid
himself of all feelings and thoughts. His emotions lie buried in the
earth along with the soldiers who fell prey to them. His dullness
protects him from going mad at the sight a slaughtered comrade or
butchered friend. He wants to live at all costs so "every expression
of his life must serve one purpose and one purpose only,
preservation of existence, and he is absolutely focused on that." For
the cost of life is the death of his emotions, his survival depends on
it. Every shell that falls, every shot that fires, a soldier must face the
possible certainty of death. To Baümer, death carries hand grenades
and a bayonet, and a rifle really to take what he has long
protected-his life. Whenever he looks into the eyes of an enemy
soldier, he does not see a man, but sees death staring back at him.
What can you do but fight back? He can not and will not coexist
with you. It does not matter that he is a man of your same
distinction; it does not matter if he has a mother, a father, a sister or
a brother. All that matters is that he wants to take your life. The only
way for you to live is to destroy him before he does destroys you.
Your salvation means his sacrifice. The life of a man is the price you
pay for your continual existence. Baümer would destroy him
because he threatens his survival and his survival is most important.
"We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers-we reach the zone
where the front begins and become on the instant animals." The fate
of Baümer and the fate of all soldiers depends on their faith in their
primal instincts. "The menace of death has transformed us into
unthinking animals in order to give us the weapon of instinct..." His
instinct protects him from the madness and the horror of mutilation.
He says "...We have become wild beasts. We do not fight... we
defend ourselves against annihilation." It is survival of the fittest;
killed or be killed. Baümer not only believes this