Describe at least one method the writer used to engage the reader with the text
Explain how this method helped engage you.
The famous Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. This quote is brought to life in Erich Maria Remarque’s novel set through the course of World War One, fittingly named ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. Through this story we follow young Paul Baumer, a German teenager who enlisted to fight mere days after graduating high school. We see Paul thrown into the deep end and what is seemingly hell itself. Remarque uses a variety of methods to engage the reader throughout the novel, while also challenging the ideas and concepts of war and patriotism.
WW1 was possibly one of the most influential events in human history, taking place between the years of 1914-1918. Much of the action was being fought in Europe, as the Allied forces (Great Britain, France, etc) took on the Axis powers of Germany and Italy (among others). This war led to the casualties of millions of soldiers and civilians, and has proven to be a cornerstone in our history. Being a WW1 veteran, Remarque wanted to prove to the world the horror and loss that is a reality of war, while also challenging the idea of patriotism and propaganda in modern society. War is often glorified in mainstream media in today’s age, so Remarque strived to show the harsh truths of modern war - as well as how it affects the people fighting it.
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is quick to action, barring the reader from becoming uninterested. Paul is thrown right into the fight along with all his high school friends. The early death of his childhood best friend, Kemmerich, is a shocking wake-up call to Paul and his peers about the reality of war. Throughout his time at the front Paul experiences almost every horror imaginable, saying “Bombardement, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand grenades - words, words, but they hold the horror of war”. Remarque expresses how living under this constant attack does more damage to Paul’s mind rather than his physical being. As a reader we see and experience Paul’s mental decline from friends’ deaths, to close calls himself. By writing about these events, Remarque paints a confronting picture in our minds about the atrocities that war produces. This makes us readers think more deeply into the meaning of war, as we often place ourselves in the shoes of those who are fighting it.
These horrors Paul encounters are only intensified by his encounter with French soldier, Gerard Duval. For a majority of his time at the front, Paul is seemingly fighting an invisible enemy; merely shooting into the distance. Peers often paint their foes as “demons” or other monstrous beings. This facade leads Paul to believing that he is fighting for the greater good, but this theory is quickly dispelled. On a chance encounter Paul runs into an enemy soldier, who he later learned was named Gerard Duval. After fatally injuring him, Paul realises who he is actually fighting, saying “Why do they never tell us that your poor devils like us”. Propaganda plays a big part in any war, and Remarque believes that patriotism fits under that umbrella. Remarque believed by painting the enemy in a bad light, people forget the humanity of the people they are fighting. This idea plants the seed in the reader’s thoughts about how this can relate to the world we live in today.
Remarque likes to use his characters as puppets to actively display the themes of the novel as well as his own thoughts. A prime example of this is Kantorek, Paul’s high school teacher. Kantorek hammers the idea that war is a “glorious act” and that they should join to “protect The Motherland” . Paul quickly realises the hollowness of these words as Remarque pushes the idea that patriotism is a blanket to disguise the leader’s real agendas. Because of being ultimately tricked into believing these lies, Paul has become what is known as “The Lost Generation”, young men whose lives and futures have been crushed by war and the leader’s whom they are fighting for. All these variables help the reader challenge the ideas that modern media has placed before us today.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque tells the story of a young German soldier, Paul Baumer, as he learns about the harsh realities of war and how it has affected him and his entire generation. Remarque gives key insights and different perspectives on the topic of war to keep the audience engaged and thinking. Paul believed that war would consume his life forever long after the final shot, so I relate back to Plato’s quote, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”.