Essay, Pages 5 (1076 words)
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
ERICH MARIA REMARQUE
This book is written by a German veteran of World War I, who describes the German soldiers’ extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the frontlines.
I think this book tells a tale of honor and courage, two of the three core values of the Marine Corps. The author brings his own experiences to light through the main character, Paul Bäumer.
Furthermore, I believe that the author is trying to characterize his generation, the young men who fought the Great War and who were destroyed by it. The group of men which Paul Bäumer fights with reminds me of the camaraderie that lies within the Marine Corps ethos.
All is Quiet on the Western Front begins with Paul Bäumer’s company at rest, five miles behind the front lines between Langemark and Bixschoote.
They have had very little sleep for the fourteen days since they relieved the front line and seventy of their one hundred and fifty men are dead at the hands of Russian gunfire. The cook, Ginger, has fixed rations for the one hundred and fifty and, after arguing with the lieutenant, grudgingly consents to give all the food to the eighty soldiers left, including double rations of smokes. As the narrator remarks, “Today is wonderfully good.”
In All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque creates Paul Bäumer to represent a whole generation of men who are known to history as the “lost generation.
” Eight million men died in battle, twenty-one million were injured, and over six and a half million noncombatants were killed in what is called “The Great War.” Throughout the story, I feel that the generation has gone through an event that steals the memories of their childhood. As early as the second chapter, Paul Bäumer describes the difference between his generation, his parents, and the older soldiers. They had a life before the war, a life where they felt comfortable and secure. But Paul’s generation never had a chance at that life. Even when the story begins, all Paul has known is death, horror, fear, and suffering. He and his fellow classmates are only nineteen and twenty years old; the age of the average Junior Marine today. However, they feel nothing, believe in nothing, and see no future because of their experiences in the war.
Apart from being deprived of the sweet memories of childhood and the hopes of a bright future, this generation felt a terrible sense of betrayal by their parents, teachers, and government. The myths of the older generation become apparent when Paul goes home. A sergeant-major reprimands Paul for not saluting him when Paul has spent a good share of his life in the trenches killing the enemy and trying to survive. Many Marines can relate to this reference, as many find it difficult to transition back into garrison after being in country for so long.
As the war story unfolds, Paul and his friends become cynical towards death and horror all around them, that the inhumanity and atrocities of war become part of everyday life. The author describes the atrocities, the terrible consequences of weapons of mass destruction, and how soldiers become hardened to death and its onslaught of sensory perceptions during battle. Atrocities are simply a part of the inhumane business of war. In chapter 6, Paul and his men come across soldiers whose noses are cut off and eyes poked out with their own saw bayonets. Their mouths and noses are stuffed with sawdust so they suffocate. This constant view of death causes the soldiers to fight back like animals. They use spades to slice faces in two and jab bayonets into the backs of any enemy who is too slow to escape. Their callousness is contrasted with the reaction of the new recruits who give in to front-line foolishness described over and over again in scenes of the front.
Despite all the terrible stories of death and gore, the author revisits a redeeming quality: comradeship. When Paul and his friends ambush Corporal Himmelstoss and beat him up, I laugh because he deserves it and they are only giving him his due. As time goes by, however, the pictures of camaraderie relieve the terrible descriptions of front line assaults and death, and they provide a bright light in a place of such terrible darkness. A recruit becomes gun-shy in his first battle when a rocket fires and explosions begin.
He goes to Paul and cries and Paul does his best to comfort him. This reminds me of when I was deployed and my fellow Marines would make me feel better and tell me we would be home soon when I was feeling homesick. Through thick and thin, battle and rest, horror and hopelessness, these men hold each other up. Finally, Paul has only Kat and he loses even this friend and father-figure in Chapter 11. This man, this hero, this father, this life — has been closer to Paul than his own blood relatives and yet Paul must say, “No, we are not related.”
Remarque says that this novel “will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.” If words can touch what men hold to be dear in their hearts and so cause them to change the world, this book with its words of a lost generation, lost values, and lost humanity is surely one that should be required reading for all generations.
I think that this book is great insight into what soldiers went through during World War I. It really captures the essence of basic Marine Corps Values, such as honor and courage. The main character Paul Bäumer shows great courage in that he takes care of his fellow soldiers and pushes forward, despite all the day to day atrocities. Paul and his friends show honor by sticking up for what is right and being there for one another. Lastly, my favorite quality displayed by the characters was camaraderie. This is something that Marine Corps has taught me and that will always remain with me even after I get out, because it has showed me that no matter what, your peers will always be with you, during wartime and during peacetime.