War And Its Costs: World War One Essay, Research Paper
World War One was said to be “the war to end all wars,” little did the people know that that was going to be proven wrong 19 later. The perception of war was clearly misstated to new recruits. Both protagonists in both books thought the war was just a time to prove yourself and fight for your country, little did they know that the point of them being in the war was to teach them how to stay alive. Paul Baumer, the protagonist in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” got use to the war and his comrades better then Robert Ross, the protagonist in “The Wars,” did. The narrators of both books describe the war ground quite vividly and quite similarly. Receiving a misconception of war was exactly what Paul Baumer and Robert Ross had received before enlisting into the army.
1Paul’s teacher lectured the students in Paul’s class about enlisting into the German army. He gives the students a long speech about how they shouldn’t be learning, they should be out in the trenches fighting for their country. What he fails to do is teach the students about the down side of fighting for your country. Once Paul enlists into the army and is out there on the front, Katczinsky tells him that in the war they are not fighting for their country, but fighting to stay alive. His teacher also failed to tell them of how they would feel when they killed another human being. When Paul landed in a trench and a soldier from the opposing side had fallen into the trench with him, Paul did not hesitate to stab the man. After he had stayed in the trench with the half-dead soldier, Paul made promises to the soldier. 2“Comrade, I did not want to kill you … You were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed … Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us… that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony—Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat…” His teacher did not teach this sudden sympathy that Paul displays. Paul told Katczinsky what had happened and Katczinsky related to the matter by saying that everyone goes through it their first time.
Robert had gone through a different misconception of war. 3Robert’s sister Rowena was crippled so Robert always hung around with her to cheer her up; they were best friends. One day when Robert was out Rowena fell when she wasn’t being watched and died. This was the final draw and Robert decided that the last thing left for him to do was to leave his family and go to war. Robert enlisted into the army. Robert didn’t really know what he was doing, just that there was a war going on and he was going to be part of it. Unlike Paul, Robert wasn’t really taught anything about the war, he just figured it was away out of the real world.
Throughout the entire book Paul shows a drastic change in his attitude towards his pre-enlistment society as oppose to his fellow comrades in the army. At first Paul seems to take the advice of his teacher and parents by enlisting into the army. He described his teacher’s persuasion to get his students to enlist into the army by saying, 4“surrendering our individual personalities more completely then we would ever have believed possible even in the most obsequious errand boy. Saluting, eyes front … we had imagined that our task would be rather different from all this, but we discovered that we were being trained to be heroes, the way they train circus horses, and we quickly got used to it.” This proves that Paul got use to the army quite easily. At another point of the book, Paul notices that he cannot communicate with the people he grew up with. When Paul returns home he goes to speak to his mother, but he realizes that they have nothing to say to each other, 5“We say very little, and I am thankful that she asks nothing.” But finally she speaks, “Was it very bad out there, Paul?” “Mother, what should I answer to that? You would not understand, you could never realize it. And you never shall realize it. Was it bad you ask? You, mother, I shake my head and say: “No, mother, not so very. There are always a lot of us together so it isn’t so bad.” In this part Paul is thinking to him self and then tells his mother a lie that everything is all right. He does this to protect his mother from hearing about the inhumane conditions from which he has just returned. 6In another scene Paul was trapped in a trench and started to panic. Once he had heard the voices of his comrades he had settled down thinking that everything was all right.
Robert’s enlistment to the war was a choice made all by him self. Robert seemed to get use to the thought of being a soldier but remained more relaxed. He led his life as though he was out of the war. He made it seem as though the war was just a background and a minor complication in his life. He kept talking to his parents and he perused to love Barbara D’Orsey. 7He met her while he was on leave after being injured on the front and keeping an eye out for his practically dead friend, Harris. Robert also had time to make friends on his voyage during the war. He described his story as if there was no war going on. 8In the beginning of the book him and a few comrades went to a whorehouse. This was going to be Robert’s first time having slept with a woman. Robert didn’t want to go in but had to so he could fit in with the other men. The prostitute had realized this was going to be his first time by his silence and by the way that he ejaculated before he was even touched. This seemed to be a part of the book just to show how young Robert was and how he tried to fit in.
9Paul’s description of the graveyard scene seems to be symbolic and also a very thorough description. Near the end of the book the allied forces attacked a graveyard in which Germans were passing through. This was right before Paul got trapped in the trench where he killed the soldier from the opposing side. In one instance of that scene Paul says, “I am fighting a crazy confused battle. I want to get out of my hollow in the ground but I keep on slipping back in.” Paul is just describing what the trench seems like and what is going on around him and to follow that he also says, “The machine guns are rattling away. I know that barbed wire entanglements are firm and pretty well undamaged … They aren’t getting through. They’ll have to turn back.” Paul mainly describes the things going on around him in the war, such as the artillery, barbed wires, and the soldiers.
Robert’s portrayal of the war was quite imaginable. 10In one part of the book Robert and his men are on their way to a meeting point with their horses. Robert took a wrong turn and went through a dike. A dike is like quick sand filled with gases. Robert noticed the smell of chlorine and phosgene. “What is that smell” he asked Poole. “Prob’ly chlorine” Poole replied. 11The use of chlorine gas was really used mainly by the Germans and it was the first time the use of gas at such a large scale was used. Robert also described the men he and Poole were stuck with in the trench. 12One man, Devlin, said he was an artist. He went through the war collecting stained glass from churches, and portraits of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Another man had kept rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, and toads. Robert made it seem as though these men were crazy. He also described the amount of deaths, which occur during a few battles. 13The first night Robert actually fell asleep, which was the morning of the 28th of February at 4 a.m. the Germans set off land mines at St. Eloi Salient. It lasted five days and 30,000 men would die, yet not an inch of ground had been gained. Many battles like these have been fought in the war such as The battle of Somme, and the battle of Ypres which Robert makes a small reference to. Also the trenches described are also described exactly how they really were.
“The war to end all wars” was clearly proven wrong in the future. It seems as though all the fighting that the soldiers did was for nothing but to gain back land which was already the same country’s land. The young soldiers were ambitious to fight for their country so they did not hesitate to enlist into the army. Parents, teachers and other model figures taught the teenagers/children the wrong thing. Not to fight for pride, or for becoming a hero, or even for your country, but fighting to try to stay alive once you have already enlisted. Both protagonists clearly show the way they lived during the war, and their misconceptions of it.