Joseph Behm: The Harsh Reality of Peer Pressure

Categories: Joseph Behm

Peer pressure is a pervasive and potent force that can shape individuals' decisions and actions, particularly in critical moments of life. In Erich Maria Remarque's novel "All Quiet on the Western Front," the character of Joseph Behm becomes a tragic example of the devastating impact of peer pressure. His story serves as a poignant illustration of how the pressure to conform to societal expectations and the influence of peers can lead individuals down a path of dire consequences.

From the outset, Joseph Behm is characterized as a hesitant and reluctant individual who is unsure about enlisting in World War I.

His apprehensions are rooted in a rational assessment of the potential dangers and horrors of warfare. However, his friends and peers, spurred by patriotic fervor and societal pressure, pressure him into enlisting. Behm's inability to resist the collective influence and expectations of his peers ultimately seals his fate, as he meets a tragic end on the battlefield.

Behm's fate highlights the harsh reality of the pressure to conform to societal norms and expectations.

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His inability to resist the persuasion of his friends underscores the overwhelming influence that peer pressure can exert on individuals, even in matters of life and death. The novel underscores how the collective mindset can overpower individual reservations, leading people to make decisions against their own better judgment.

Furthermore, Behm's experience underscores the disparity between the romanticized ideals of war and the brutal realities of combat. Despite his reluctance to enlist, he succumbs to the glorified notions of heroism and duty promoted by society.

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The pressure to conform to these ideals ultimately blinds him to the brutal consequences that await on the battlefield. Behm's tragic end becomes a cautionary tale, challenging the prevailing narrative of wartime glory and heroism.

Behm's character also illustrates the vulnerability of young individuals to external influences. As a young man, he is still in the process of forming his identity and values. The pressure from his peers taps into his desire for acceptance and belonging, leading him to compromise his own principles. His story serves as a reminder that peer pressure can be particularly potent during formative stages of life, when individuals are seeking their place in society and yearning for validation from their peers.

The circumstances of Behm's death further emphasize the tragedy of his situation. When he is fatally wounded, his cries for help go unanswered by his comrades, who are too engrossed in their own survival to assist him. This grim reality illustrates the isolation that can result from conforming to societal pressures and suppressing individuality. Behm's death becomes emblematic of the cost of yielding to peer pressure—both in terms of his own life and the collective dehumanization that occurs in the crucible of war.

In conclusion, Joseph Behm's character in "All Quiet on the Western Front" serves as a powerful cautionary tale about the harsh realities of peer pressure. His story highlights how the pressure to conform to societal expectations, particularly in matters as significant as enlisting for war, can lead individuals to make decisions that go against their own judgment and better interests. Behm's tragic fate underscores the disparity between romanticized ideals and the brutal realities of warfare, exposing the consequences of yielding to external pressures. Through Behm's character, Remarque offers a sobering commentary on the vulnerability of young individuals to the influence of their peers and the devastating impact that such pressure can have on their lives.

Updated: Aug 25, 2023
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Joseph Behm: The Harsh Reality of Peer Pressure. (2023, Aug 25). Retrieved from

Joseph Behm: The Harsh Reality of Peer Pressure essay
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