War in All Quiet On the Western Front by Remarque and Dulce et Decorum est and Futility by Wilfred Owen Essay

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War in All Quiet On the Western Front by Remarque and Dulce et Decorum est and Futility by Wilfred Owen

In War Literature, an image is often created of soldiers of war serving their country with heroic grace, met by glory from their people everlasting pride. However, Remarque and Owen tell the brutal reality of the horrific journey a whole generation of soldiers had to endure. Although the effects of war have been presented with significantly different conceptions toward the English and German in British media, own and Remarque present the physical and psychological horror of death all soldiers, united in grief.

The novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” uses the first person narrator of Paul Baumer as the viewpoint of the novel. Remarque does not try to conceal the animalistic life of the solider, but instead exposes the basic level of what a man is reduced to in war: “we march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers… and become on the instant human animals”, where men become only “soldiers” serving a military purpose and therefore lose their identity. Like Owen, Remarque explores the intensity of physical and emotional pain that haunts him: “Do I walk? Have I feet still? All is usual. Only that Stanislaus Katczinsky has died.”

Although Remarque cannot express with words the depth of the pain experienced by the loss of a “comrade”, he uses linguistic techniques such a rhetorical question to make the reader aware of how lost Baumer feels without his comrades, with no sense of direction or purpose, simply stating that “they are more to me than life, these voices.” In a world where all a man has is his life, once the last of his comrades dies, Baumer loses his mind and becomes “without hope” and “so alone” that he is nothing more than a shell. In this way, Remarque suggests that the psychological effects of war are only unbearable if they must be faced alone, in which case there can no longer be “peace” for the solider.

In “Dulce et Decorum est”, Owen’s voice recalls his own experiences throughout the poem, a painful exploration necessary for the reader to understand the reality of death in the war. The Latin for “it’s a sweet and honourable thing to die for one’s country” evokes bittersweet thoughts of gravestone and glory, suggesting the duty of death deserves a celebration of praise. However, Owen rejects this idea in the first stanza, that there is no such glory in death, as “many had lost their boots”, which directly implies that the soldiers suffered as beggars would.

Owen’s voice rings out clearly with the hurried dialogue of “Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!”; the urgency of repetition implying that he is speaking from his own haunted memories, making the reader relive his horror, at the same time quickening the pace of the poem from the “trudging” pace of the first stanza. The element of fear is further emphasised through the “fumbling” at putting on “clumsy” hats, convincing the reader of the soldiers’ vulnerability.

The semantic field of helplessness and revulsion conveys how the experience of war is inescapable, both in “smothering dreams” and consciousness, the psychological effect of a living nightmare that is similarly explored in “All Quiet on the Western Front”. The soft onomatopoeia of “smothering” gives the illusion of being suffocated by the horrors of war and the scars it’s left behind: “in all my dreams… He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.” All sense of honour that is commonly presented in British war propaganda is completely undermined when the soldiers “flung” the body of the man who drowned into a wagon, implying a lack of respect.

Owen continues to present the recurring theme of the uselessness of war more specifically in “Futility”. The title of the poem immediately creates an atmosphere of detached emptiness for the reader, remaining calm and composed throughout the first stanza. Although the pointlessness of war can often conjure up intense feelings of anger and hatred, the opening phrase: “move him into the sun, gently its touch awoke him once” avoids directly mentioning death or loss, a style with Owen continues through the following lines: “gently”, “whispering”. The voice of the poet is not as personal in this poem, referring to the solider as “him”, which could be interpreted as everyone ever lost at war.

During the second stanza, Owen portrays the speaker’s bitter feelings through emotive questions: “Are limbs, so dear achieved, are sides full-nerved, still warm too hard to stir?”- This inability to answer these questions emphasising the waste of existence through war. Empathy is created throughout “Futility”, with constant references to sun, light and warmth, which is then met with the harsher reality: “O what made fatuous sunbeams foil to break earth’s sleep at all?”, conveying a clear foolishness of war making the reader feel guilty for the destruction.

Both Remarque and Owen explore the psychological and physical horrors of war on not only the soldiers, but also those who are directly linked to them. By using the character of Baumer as the protagonist of the novel, the reader cannot escape the emotional connection stemmed from Baumer’s helpless and compassionate character, and the value of human life that is presented through the men’s comradeship. Owen presents the psychological damage of the war from his own experience, not as a method of healing or to mourn the dead, rather as a warning to the future generation to prevent the destruction and loss from happening again.

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