- Describe a weighty message conveyed in the text
Explain how this message was conveyed
War destroys everything. Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ conveys the message that war destroys everything through the use of imagery. This is shown through Paul Baumer, who is a young German soldier who joined the War straight out of high school with many of his classmates, Paul and his classmates represent their generation and help convey the message of the lost generation, through their experiences and the way they foreshadow the future for themselves and the rest of their generation of soldiers.
Erich Maria Remarque writes about the horrors of WW1 as he experienced it himself, he joined the army straight out of high school, just like Paul and his classmates. He writes about horrific experiences that are based around what he went through on the Western Front to show the readers the true reality of war as the public who hadn’t been to war have been told that war is a glorious thing and it is an honour to serve your country, war was made out to be something that it wasn’t, something that was better. Remarque wanted the public to know the truth about the war so people wouldn’t be so eager to go to war. In the 1930s the Nazis started burning ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ as they were planning another war and didn’t want people to be aware of the reality of war.
The lost generation is the generation of young boys who were sent to WW1 straight out of high school after being encouraged by everyone around them, teachers, parents and their community to go and serve. War had turned the young boys into men. After being surrounded by warfare for two years the boys realised that the future for their generation was going to be different compared to the older soldiers, “That’s the problem. Kat and Detering and Haie will go back to their old jobs because they had them already… We never had one. And how is this lot” -he gestures over towards the front “supposed to prepare us for anything?” Remarque has used foreshadowing as this is the reality of their generation, this foreshadowing emphasises the lost generation, as the boys have nothing to go home to, no job, wife or kids and most are left with physical and mental scars. The boys are aware of this. When Paul and his classmates were in school they had plans for their future, like what their job would be, but the war destroyed that. They have no skills for those jobs and the war has not taught them anything useful for the real world, “The war has ruined us for everything” The boys are not prepared to go home and live a normal life as war has destroyed everything for them.
Paul going home on leave highlights the message of the lost generation. When Paul went home he went through the 5 stages of grief as he grieved his old life ‘With my eyes I implore them: speak to me - take me up - take me up again, you old life - you old carefree, wonderful life - take me up again -’ Paul is speaking to his books in this moment as the books represent his old life because reading is something he very much enjoyed. The use of the repetition ‘take me up’ and ‘you old life’ shows that he is begging for his old life back that he had before war had destroyed it. Because war has changed him he feels isolated at home as no one around him understands what he has been through and he feels like he does not belong there anymore ‘Suddenly a terrible feeling of isolation wells up inside of me … the past turns away from me … I am a soldier. I have to cling to that.’ The personification ‘the past turns away’ shows that his old life is gone and he is accepting - which is the last stage in the 5 stages of grief - his new life as a soldier. Paul going home on leave is important to the theme of the lost generation as it shows that the war has changed him drastically and he is nothing like his old self as war destroyed that life and he doesn’t fit in with everyone else at home, just like the rest of his generation.
The war destroyed the lost generation physically and mentally. The day-to-day warfare that the soldiers experienced and the horrors that they saw affected them mentally as well as physically “Two years of rifle fire and hand-grenades-you can’t just take it all off like a pair of socks afterwards-” This use of dialogue shows that the soldiers knew that the war was going to have a lasting mental effect on them and they wouldn’t be able to go back to normal after the war is finished as the horrors they saw will never go away. Paul was in the hospital with one of his friends that he used to go to school with, Albert Kroop, Kroop’s leg was amputated and he no longer wanted to live. ‘Once he says that he will shoot himself the minute he can lay his hands on a revolver.’ This use of imagery paints a picture of the mental effects war has on the young soldiers, he would rather die than continue to live through this warfare every day. He was not like this in high school, he was excited for his future. War destroyed his will to live.
The important message of the lost generation is shown in many different times throughout ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ It was shown when the boys were talking about their future on different occasions, when Paul went home on leave and when Paul and Albert were in the hospital. Paul and his classmates represented the lost generation, which is seen in those occasions. Remarque also made the message clear about the lost generation through the use of imagery, foreshadowing, personification and repetition. The book also shows multiple times how war destroys everything, as it destroys their hope about their futures, their old lives and their will to live. The world has not learnt from this book like Remarque hoped it would as we continue to see war in our world today, for example, the war in Ukraine and Palestine/Israel.