During World War I, many soldiers were impacted by the mental and physical effects that have changed their lives in positive, but mostly negative ways. There are two novels that talk about two men in World War I, however each tells a different story on their struggles on the battlefield. On one of the books, The Wars by Timothy Findley, focuses on the protagonist Robert Ross, a Canadian soldier that joined the war.
Robert Ross mainly joined to war because it was his way of isolating himself after his sister’s death, while on the other book, All Quiet on The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, in which the story is about a teenager named Paul Baumer. Paul Baumer is a German soldier who was influenced from his teacher that going to war was a courageous decision. War focuses us to sacrifice our humanity in exchange for survival, which leads us to our self-destruction, where we become like animals for the sake of our survival.
The meaning behind this is that wars take our feelings and human instincts thus replacing them to animal instincts to survive. In the end, life becomes difficult to come back to which leads to our own destruction. The aspect from both novels is about “men who were destroyed by war” (Remarque 12) even when they have escaped the horrors of the war. Both authors express that they do not want to tell us about the experiences in the war, at least not just the war, but rather the destructive impact on the soldier; such as the inability of young people to go back to their life exactly like before the war.
There is no doubt that the entire generation has been ruined by war and were unable to function afterwards. Paul Baumer returns home on his seven day leave, and describes those seven days as unhappy personal experiences. He fails to see an old major on the street, he is forced by another officer to go back to the major and salute him according to the etiquette of military soldiers. Paul feels as though it is petty harassment. For Paul it’s already embarrassing for his father to tell him to wear his uniform so that he could proudly show it to all his acquaintances.
Just to show his uniform to all his father’s acquaintances, Baumer finds it as though as they are getting the wrong idea of what the reality of war was. Paul’s father wants him to use his experiences of the war as a demonstration but insists that it is to “dangerous” to remind him of the war because he cannot manage as though he was on the front-lines like before. This goes the same as for The Wars; many soldiers were destroyed after seeing how the war was like. …frozen fingers of nameless rivers, heralded by stream and whirling snow, the train returned him to his heritage of farms…” (Findley 46) The steam from the train could have signified the anger from all the soldiers after witnessing the death from all their fellow troops and just leaving their corpse unburied, while they move on to the hopes of winning the war. The topic of destruction in the novels is also caused by the older generation. The younger generations believed that the elder ones had greater insight and wisdom but was later on destroyed by the first sight of the war casualties.
The sight of how they have been betrayed, the soldiers also notice that it is the older generation that declares war and never physically fight in it; however it is the younger soldiers that are risking their own lives for them. An example of betrayal is also seen in The Wars, when Robert is betrayed by Taffler, whom was seen as a manly strong soldier to follow; however after the incident, Roberts view of him immediately shattered. Robert states that all the soldiers have been raped by their so called leaders. It has to be there because it is my belief that Robert Ross and his generation of young men were raped, in effect, by the people who made the war. Basically, their fathers did it to them. ” (Findley 150-151) “Fathers” would be the people that are in powers who controlled the younger generation but who were also told to slaughter their so called enemy. All Quiet on the Western Front also contradicts the older generation because Paul feels as though he was betrayed by his own teacher. “For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity… to the future… in our hearts we trusted them.
The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs… The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces. ” (Remarque 78) In this quote Paul learns that the educators who were supposed to guide the younger generation to the “right” direction into the world have failed miserably.
The older generation that is constantly mocking the younger generations for cowardice signs but even the older generation hasn’t actually experienced the reality of war and what the feeling of fighting is actually like. The younger generation need to make their own choices instead of always relying on the older ones between whether something is right or wrong whilst the older generation has been proved incapable of doing so. In the midst of wars many soldiers strive to survive and will do anything just for the sake of survival.
Robert Ross does a good job on surviving the war on the battlefront; however, it is ironic to see the very same allies he fought with end up killing him. Robert doesn’t die in action but dies in a burning barn. He continuously sees destruction all around him wherever he goes and is always afraid that he may not live “On the far side he could see that the men and the wagons and the rest of the convoy were drawn up near fires and he just kept thinking: warm, I am going to be warm. ” (Findley 82) This is desperation in order to remain alive.
Similarly to The Wars, Paul and his friends also strive just to survive the war. In the first chapter Remarque jumps into the war action: “We were at rest five miles behind the front” (Remarque 3) He does not clearly specify whether or not the German army or Paul’s friends. Unlike The Wars where the main characters are athletic, strong like Robert and Taffler, Remarque doesn’t describe his characters as complete developed characters. Each of them is described as people who have regular human qualities. An example would be Tjaden who is the biggest eater and Westhus who continuously thinks about women.
They feel as though, to survive they need to form a brotherhood that strives as much as possible to survive an arena of death. All other expressions they may show are unable to be shown as the only thing that you’re able to show is the sake for surviving the war. Hunger is a part of survival in All Quiet on The Western Front. Many soldiers that don’t come back to the camp receive the dead ones share of food from the first chapter. Because the soldiers were really happy to see the extra food and wasn’t sad or angry about the death of their comrades means that food was very uncommon.
Dehumanizing is a necessary tool in order to survive the war. Dehumanizing is depicted in both The Wars and All Quiet on the Western Front, however, Robert is having trouble going to the stage of being dehumanized through the book, and isn’t until later he is to his limits and snaps making him do awful things; like shooting Captain Leather in the face. Referring back to All Quiet on The Western Front, Paul describes the psychological transformations that soldiers have when going into battle such as this quote. “We have become wild beasts.
We do not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation. It is not against men that we fling our bombs, what so we know of men in this moment when Death with hands and helmets is hunting us down… We feel a mad anger. No longer do we lie helpless, waiting on the scaffold, we can destroy and kill, to save ourselves, to save ourselves and be revenged” (Remarque 113). The soldiers stop being good people and become beasts later on, so they may survive. It is necessary to sacrifice the thoughtful and logical part of their minds in order for them to become like animals to survive.
However for Robert dehumanization becomes a problem. He is too sensitive for these sorts of things and this is seen through his thoughtfulness of the animals. Robert tries to find a role model to become manlier but doesn’t happen until he sees the horses being bombed, in which changes him. Robert has held in such anger to the point where he kills captain leather but the interesting thing is that Robert went to the point of becoming an animal himself in order to save animals. “His anger rose to such a pitch that he feared he was going to go over into madness.
He stood where the gate has been and thought: ‘If an animal had done this – we would call it mad and shoot it’ and at that precise moment Captain Leather rose to his knees and began to struggle to his feet. Robert shot between the eyes. ” (Findley 178) Wars had a huge impact to the younger generations and the physical involvement of war changes a person immediately. “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 267) Soldiers such as Robert and Paul realize that they themselves have changed from the impact of the war experience, they are alienated, a feeling of no belonging, an inability to connect to the past. And feel as though they need to go back to the trenches because nothing else connects to them anymore. And so the broken soldiers, Paul and Robert, return to the frontlines and become an animal again, only this time, survival is short lived.