The earth, as in the soil beneath our feet, is taken for granted every single day, but never by a soldier on the front lines. Erich Maria Remarque explains this through his character Paul Bäumer in the excerpt of his novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Paul is explaining the effects that war on the front can leave with a soldier, the hopelessness, instinct of an animal, and appreciation for things as simple as the earth that we walk on. While explaining these effects Remarque uses literary and rhetorical devices.Portraying Paul’s sense of being helpless and trapped as an effect of being on the battle front, Remarque uses various literary devices to describe Paul’s feelings.
The narrator Paul states, “To me the front is a mysterious whirlpool” a “vortex sucking me…into itself.” This extended metaphor expresses the hopelessness that the war leaves with soldier. The vortex symbolizes the loss of optimism in the weary soldiers and how it is “irresistibly” and “inescapably” happening. This paragraph of the passage could also be an example of how Remarque uses parallelism to tell of the effects.The front not only causes the soldiers to gain a muffled mind, but to also gain gratitude. While explaining the appreciation they get when fighting to survive at the front, Remarque uses different types of imagery to express their deep feeling towards the ground.
“To no man doe the earth mean so much as to a soldier”. He personifies the earth by calling it “her” and creates an image of the earth as a mother figure, protecting and sheltering the soldiers. Then, later in the passage, Remarque writes as if Paul is praising the ground as a God, saying that it has “redeemed them” and “granted the soldiers a new life”. This can be taken as a dose overboard, however, this image the soldiers have devised of the earth in their mind, “she” has saved them, physically and religiously.
Concluding the effects that Remarque characterizes in this portion of the novel, He describes the sudden takeover of animalistic instinct while in battle. This instinct is the difference between life and death. Paul tells that a man will find himself on the ground, right at the moment that a shell flies over him. Yet he cannot remember if he had heard it or what had happened “one cannot explain it.”
This is the instinct that appears when your mind has departed “It is this other, this second sight in us.” Paul claims that this is what saves them. A literary device used near the end was when Paul says “…there would not be one man alive from Flanders to the Vosges.” This is a hyperbole, because it is an exaggeration. Remarque continues the idea of animal instinct using an oxymoron: the soldiers come to the front and “become on the instant human animals.” He suggests that these soldiers retain the shape of humanity but have developed animal-like qualities in order to survive.
This is a tragic consequence of war- the loss of humanity and civility. In the end Paul learns that he will never be the same. The profound transformations that he has endured during while being at the front have scared him beyond repair. This amplifies the hopelessness they feel, because if they do not die physically they will die emotionally. Remarque uses literary devices throughout the passage to emphasize to affect how the text is read. He uses personification multiple times throughout the paragraphs. When speaking of the soldier’s appreciation of the earth, Remarque personifies the earth and they develop strong feelings towards it. “O Earth, thou grantest us the great resisting surge of new-won life.” The overall message of the expert is the affect of the war on a soldiers mind. He will do anything to survive, he will find new recognition, and he will even give up all of his faith.
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