All Quiet on the Western Front is a historical novel that triggers emotional thoughts and imaginations. Erich Maria Remarque brings out a clear picture of the World War I through the main character Baumer, a German soldier, alongside his comrades. As I read the novel, various changes have been experienced in the war. Nationalism, technology, assassination, acts of humanity, as well as conscript armies that were applied in large scale in the World War I made it different from the wars that came before it.
One of the aspects that made the World War I different from the other wars that came before it was the employment of technology with weapons such as machine guns. It involved ill-fated combatants who were mainly armed with unforeseen threats and rifles equipped with a bayonet. A good example was the use of biplane, whereby Anthony Fokker enhanced a plane that had two wings which pinpointed the troops that massed for any ground attack. Fokker enhanced a machine gun synchronized to alter the propeller. Baumer alongside his comrades observed the plane, which was majorly used in dog fights, from the ground level. The high-explosives have also been frequently mentioned in the novel. They triggered the most tormenting of arms that were a threat to an entire town and augmented by elevated accuracy.
In his novel, Remarque also brought out torments such as dysentery, hunger, tetanus, and typhus that reduced very healthy men to dispirited ones unlike in previous wars. Baumer realizes the threats and dangers posed by the war. Additionally, he realizes that a soldier requires good rest and food as numerous things can occur in war besides the fact that life can be transformed in an instant (Remarque 90). Himmelstoss, a tyrant, is also transformed and offers the men sweets and forgets his rage. In my opinion, this depicts how mens attitudes can alter under intense threats. It is evident that bonds can be created in people who were once enemies for instance in Baumer and his comrades Muller, Kat, and Tjaden.
As the World War I rages in the novel, I witnessed profound changes where heroes have been converted to cowards. True to say, hardships tend to change men influencing them to make unintended or unplanned decisions. In chapters 7-9, the nature of war is unveiled not as a concept, but as a player that shapes the heroes lives in a battle. As the war pushed for more sacrifice especially in the rationing of the civilians, most of the German soldiers such as Detering became disillusioned and deserted to defend their families (63). They were caught and executed in the field after a very hasty trying.
People in the World War I as Remarque contends, showed humanity and many sacrifices with a great feeling of winning the war. I noticed creation of ties and bonds with friends, especially in Baumer. For instance, when he travels home, there is an alteration in his mindset. In fact, Baumers home is not his house, but where his friends live, the Western Front. Baumer believes that home is where the loved ones dwell. Despite the love Baumer has for his mother, the anxiety to go back to his friends at the Front exceeds the trauma of his mothers sickness (31). Additionally, despite learning on the significance of living peacefully, Baumer still wishes to return to the battlefront where his friends are.
In chapter eight, Baumer showed humanity, a unique feature in the WWI when he empathized with his enemies. This was after his return from vacation and stationing at a Russian soldier prison camp. He saw the people perceived as enemies in his country as poor and needy men. It is unusual how he treats them to the extent of providing them with food. He hardly kicks or punishes them. Looking back to his life in the prison camps, Baumer realizes that the men he was shooting at actually were decent and not savage murderers in the Front. Unlike in the past centuries, this phenomenon of war is evident especially to the killers in war. Baumer also acquires time to ponder and reflect. He realizes that It is when one is alone that one begins to observe Nature and love her (181). I would regard this as a very significant role in the companionship in the Front. The characters chief focus was to keep his comrades alive rather than being alone and enjoying his time. He always prioritized his friends.
Baumer and his comrades have come to their realization that nationalism and patriotism would no longer work for them. However, Baumer and his comrades regarded it as a hypocritical ideal (207). They perceived it as a way of ruling by those in power of controlling the countries population. The German soldiers remained loyal and had volunteered to enlist in the war at the beginning of the novel. Moreover, the sentiments of Baumer and his comrades former schoolteacher, Kantorek, depicts nationalism as an unswerving dedication to ones own nation that swept Europe at its worst during the World War I. The patriotic sentiments of Kantorek alongside the bullying, pushed Baumer and his friends to volunteer into the War. Kantorek referred this to as Iron Youth (18). Nationalism and patriotism are also depicted in Baumers measure of vengeance after Kantorek is enlisted in the war (47). As a result, Kantorek fights and dies for the war he promotes. The wanting of unification in Europe also symbolized nationalism. Baumer and friends wanted a country they would belong. Some students were under parental pressure to enlist in the war.
Unlike other wars, Remarque brings out the World War I with the commencement of assassination. As his principal had affirmed, Baumer would hardly find pride and glory, but struggle for death and pain. 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 (Remarque 263). It is so traumatic at age 19, and the first task is that of killing. The battles fought in the World War I had hardly any names and were deemed to have very little significance overall except for the impending probability of death or injury for Baumer and his comrades. There was also hope for gaining land in the war unlike the wars before, though they were often taken back.
In conclusion, Remarques novel exposes the horrors experienced in the World War I. The chief factor that differentiated the World War I from other previous wars was the employment of technology and scientific research in the use of armor. Another feature that made the WWI unique as compared to other wars before was nationalism which is chiefly epitomized by Kantorek, the schoolteacher of Baumer and his classmates. The war also commenced with assassination, unlike earlier wars. Despite his early age, Baumer was tasked with killing as his initial duty in the war. Nationalism and patriotism, technology, acts of assassination as well as sacrifice for humanity made the WWI a unique battle, unlike other previous wars.
Remarque, Erich Maria. All quiet on the Western Front. Vol. 68. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2004.
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