“No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck” (Remarque 101) — this line alone expresses how difficult and trying was the nature of war for Erich Maria Remarque. However, an in-depth analysis of his work All Quiet on the Western Front would reveal that for Remarque, there is more to war other than difficulty, as he associated the words chaos, fear, distress, darkness, inhumanity, and death with war.
By carefully analyzing his words and the nature and personalities of his characters, it could easily be seen that Remarque, more than anything else, hated the nature, the reality, and the existence of war itself. Erich Paul Remarque, who was popularly known as Erich Maria Remarque, was French in ancestry but was German in terms of nationality. As a child, Remarque did not show any interest in politics and in the military. Instead, he showed inclination to music and sports. Remarque was always on top of his class way back in his preparatory and secondary studies.
However, by the age of 18, despite his high dreams of becoming an educator and a writer, he was forced to join the German army and serve his country. Just like any other soldier, Remarque thought that the war is endless. He suffered painful wounds several times as he fired at and killed strangers several times as well (Liukkonen). After he was discharged from the army, he decided to pursue his liking of educating people. For some time, he thought he could finally turn his back on the misery and the darkness of the war, but all those times, he felt he was wrong.
Instead of forgetting everything about the war, his memories of it were rather stuck and locked in his head. No matter how hard he tried to erase and avoid such memories, they kept on coming back and hunting him. Thus, he wanted to release and express everything by writing what would turn out to be his most famous work, All Quiet on the Western Front. Death, Fear and Inhumanity as Portrayed in Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front A lot of people may be fond of reading war novels because of the perceived glory and might exuded by each warrior and soldier from the way he fights for his country’s honor.
However, although this is the case for some people, for Remarque — whose eyes and consciousness had been opened to the real face of the war — there is nothing glorious and noble about war. It is not even about valor and dignity. In his eyes, all that war brings and teaches people is to be inhumane, disconnected, and fearful. He even said once that even though their generation was able to escape the damned chaos of war, their generation still seemed destroyed in a certain way (Liukkonen).
The character Paul Baumer, who also serves as the narrator of his own tale, reflects a lot of Remarque’s character and feelings. In this character alone, the deep frustration, fear, misery, and bitterness in Ramarque’s heart can be greatly felt. His disgust and bitterness towards how the war enforces inhumanity can be deeply sensed in his literary prowess. In Paul Baumer’s words, it is obvious that although he understood his responsibilities for his country, he still questioned why he had to suffer such fate for a fight that was not even his:
We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we have suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through. (Remarque 13) Similar to other literary artists who were able to see the reality of war, Remarque did put the message clearly in this novel that war is not about being a hero or being brave at all.
Paul and his colleagues in this story represent the victims and not the heroes of a fight that they did not even start. Based on their reactions while seeing their colleagues die morbidly one after another, it seems clear that they saw war as the most depressing and the darkest event a person can ever witness. Yet, they also think that the war would be endless as long as there are coward men who hide behind expensive suits and behind their desks, afraid to fight their enemies by themselves.
Looking deeply into the theme, the command of language, and the weight of emotion put on this work, it can be understood why this work of Remarque was able sell well during its time of publication. Aside from this, it was even highly regarded by critics. It could be mainly because the words, expressions, thoughts, and emotions from the characters’ dialogues all seem honest and real. As it appears, what the author communicates through this novel is the real and genuine thoughts and feelings that seem to be difficult to express and bear during his own experience of the inhumane war.
All those expressions of fear, pain, and torture appear so real in the senses of the readers because the author is practically retelling everything that really occurred right in front of his eyes. If there is anything this work really proves, it is that war really changes a person’s life forever. This is not just because that person may eventually lose a leg, an arm, or any body part, but it is because the dark and aching memory will always stay and haunt him or her no matter how far he or she runs from it.
As how the story puts it, the war may seem to end, everything on the front may seem quiet, but the painful injuries and deafening noises in one’s mind and memory will always be the most lasting and the most difficult things to heal. Works Cited Liukkonen, Petri. “Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970). ” Pegasos. 18 Dec. 2008. 19 July 2009. <http://www. kirjasto. sci. fi/remarque. htm>. Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Trans. A. W. Wheen. New York: Ballantine Books, 1987.
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