, Research Paper
Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, All Quite on the Western Front gives you detail and insight into the long, destructive “Great War”. Quickly, romantic illusions about combat are disintegrate. Enthusiastic teenage boys convinced to fight for their country by their patriotic teachers came back feeling part of a lost generation . This novel teaches us what a terrifying and painful experience World War I was for those fighting in the trenches on the front.
German propaganda spread throughout Germany like wildfire. The glory and enthusiasm of going to war to fight for your country aims and ideals was the mood set. Everyone wanted to be a hero, and if you did not want to fight than you would be thought of as a coward,.. “ because at the time even one’s parents were ready with the word ‘Coward’..” (Remarque p.11). The elders glorified war by writing and talking about it, expressing that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing. The soldiers saw the hideous wounds and dying men and distinguishing the false from the true, realizing that there is nothing of their world left. That is how Paul Baumer felt when he was in the Catholic hospital with his friend and comrade Albert Kropp. Looking around at all the wounded solders he saw what a waste war was. Up until this war, nobody had ever seen such a destructive war, partly due to all the advanced technology, and therefore none of the great world powers knew what they were getting themselves into. “ To shed one’s blood for the fatherland is not difficult it is enveloped in romantic heroism” (McKay/Hill/Bucker 904) as explained by a German soldier who volunteered for the front. The fact that the whole country of Germany was patriotic, energetic, and unified towards the war effort glorified it even that much more. Who would not want to fight for their homeland at that time? “ We were still crammed full of vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also an ideal and almost romantic character” (Remarque 21). Once these combatants experienced the real life threats such as poisonous gasses, rapid machine gun fire and a constant flurry of explosive shells, these were propelled into a New World of killing or being killed. They are fighting with animal like instincts and all their proper manners that they are raised with vanish. The new technology that came about in World War I drastically changed they way things were done.
Technology started to change and as it changed it played a crucial role in World War I. As people were trapped in the cruelest battle, the men had to dodge the animosity of the powerful machine guns while escaping from the poisonous gasses. No one can out run a machine gun. Its ability to eliminate men by the dozens led to one stalemate after another. There were being built more compact, with more force and accuracy. Another more vicious form of death that came about during the war was the use of poisonous gases. This filled men’s lungs up, which choked and burned them in an inhumane way.
If you were not wounded physically, than you were wounded mentally. “Two years of shells and bombs- a man won’t peel that off as easy as a sock” ( Remarque 87). The wounded soldier, Paul Baumer, not only sees himself as part of a lost generation, but also feels that way for everyone his age that is included in this horrific war. “ We agree that it’s the same for everyone; not only for us here, but everywhere, for everyone who is of our age; to some more and to other less. It is the common fate of our generation” ( Remarque 87). The war ruined everyone for everything. These young men have lost their youth and their innocence. They can no longer experience the same feelings and memories the same way. In the trenches, they can not experience them at all. Remarque explains in the middle of chapter six (page 122), that even if our youth was given back to us, we would hardly know what to do with it. These “kids” who went off to war could no longer experience the same things they are suppose to in the same way or with the same attitude. The have lost their youth and are indifferent. “ We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial- I believe we are lost” (Remarque 123). Many of these people who went to the front to fight could have contributed to society. They could have been politicians, businessman, teachers, and fathers.
“The First World War was long, indecisive, and tremendously destructive” ( Mckay/Hill/Bucker 89). Erich Maria Remarque encourages to reveal to the reader how disillusioned the soldiers were who went through this terrible ordeal. The veterans who make it are hard, tough, and insensitive. For example, how can a person who fought on the front relate to a man working in the factory all day. Imagine sitting in the trenches for days or even weeks and praying that an artillery shell does not land on you and hoping your gas mask works. Individuals who went off to war for the patriotism and nationalism of the country just became part of the masses to be slaughtered. World War I was a no win situation for the soldiers. There were no winners in this ongoing stalemate and fighting for your country seemed almost inane and ridiculous. These na?ve young men were conned into fighting for their fatherland by these extreme patriots, or jingoists and for what?
There is nothing romantic about combat. For each person that lives, there are many more that are killed, wounded, or scarred. Values and whole generations are lost and there is no way to redeem that. War is horrific, saddening, and gruesome. Its destruction easily outweighs the romantic notions that were taught by Kantorek, their schoolmaster and others who deceived the “iron youth” and youth in general into fighting a bloody unromantic war.