- Describe at least one intention of the text- Explain how this intention is still meaningful today.
War destroyed the human soul. Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front” was published in 1929 it follows the life of the narrator, Paul Baumer, an 18-year-old German soldier while he is at WWI. Remarque’s intention is to demonstrate to the reader that there is no glory in war and that war destroys the human soul, in an attempt to prevent wars in the future. Remarque, using his own experience of war, successfully does this. Throughout the novel, Remarque demonstrates and exposes the true horrors of war to the reader in an effort to ensure the readers understand there is no glory in war. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is set in Germany and France in WW1 (1914-1918).
Erich Maria Remarque was a German soldier who fought in World War 1. Remarque experienced the horror of war in trench warfare and war itself. War destroyed Remarque’s physical and mental state. Remarque wrote ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ to try and prevent war in the future and prevent people from enlisting in war if they had a choice. Because of Remarque’s message which negatively represented Germany and war his book was burnt in the 1930’s by the NAZI regime.
In ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ Remarque focuses on the horrific war was, to show the reader that war is not glorious and nothing good comes out of it. An example of this is when Remarque uses a simile to describe a lance-corporal getting his head blown off right next to Paul. “He runs on for a few more paces, with blood shooting up out of his neck like a fountain”. Remarque’s choice of language paints a graphic, gruesome image in the reader’s mind. By Remarque comparing something that we would never be able to imagine, a person getting their head blown off and blood squirting out, to something that we can imagine a fountain shooting out water, he paints a vivid image in the reader’s mind. Soldiers witnessing a life-ending injury wasn’t uncommon and had to experience it daily. Soldiers surrounded by death slowly destroyed their souls. Remarque uses the Horror of War to demonstrate to the reader that there is no glory in war.
In chapter 4, Remarque also conveys his intention of the text, there is no glory in war and war destroys the human soul through Paul and his comrades having to take cover in a cemetery to escape enemy shelling. “I open my eyes; my fingers are griped tight on a sleeve, an arm. A wounded soldier? I shout out to him-no answer- must be dead. Then I remember we’ve taken cover in a cemetery.” If the horror of hiding and taking cover from enemy shelling didn;t impact the reader enough Remarque made sure it did by Paul and his comrades having to hide in a graveyard with fresh corpses in it. The fear of the shelling was more powerful than the thought of not wanting to enter a graveyard. Remarque shows us that soldiers would do anything, no matter the circumstance to avoid shelling. The graveyard symbolizes death and that there is no peace in war, even for the dead. Being surrounded by dead bodies in the graveyard and on the frontline, made soldiers aware of how many died and woke them to the reality that they would most likely end up like the others, dead. By showing the amount of death in war Remarque’s intention is displayed by showing the reader that war is death and should be avoided at all costs.
Remarque’s intention, to make the reader understand there is no glory in war is portrayed when Paul stabs and kills a French soldier, Gered Duval. While Paul is hiding in a shell crater an enemy (French) soldier falls into the crater, before the French soldier can react, Paul stabs him, eventually killing him. Paul stabs Duval out of pure instinct and instantly regrets it. “I take some earth and rub it onto the skin at least now you can’t see the blood anymore.”-Paul. Because of Remarque’s smart use of language, this quote has two meanings, a literal and a figurative meaning. The literal meaning is that Paul has blood on his hands and the figurative is Paul is guilty of murder. This is the first time Paul has killed an enemy in close proximity. Due to Paul’s poor stab, it takes a long time for Duval to die, it feels like a lifetime for Paul. During Duval’s dying moments it gives Paul time to think about what he has done. Paul doesn’t understand why he did it. It is because Paul’s soul has been destroyed by the horrors of war, only leaving him with his basic survival instincts, his animal instincts. Once Paul finds out Duval has a wife and a young child he starts to freak out and imagine what they are doing at that moment, Paul promises Duvbal that he will write them a card. This is the first time in the novel Paul realizes that the enemy is human just like Paul and if it wasn’t for war and powerful country leaders they could have got along. By Remarque showing what war does to soldiers, destroying the human soul and the trauma soldiers have to go through, his intention that there is no glory in war and war in the future shouldn’t be repeated is clearly displayed to the reader.
Unfortunately, despite Remarque’s intention to try and prevent war in the future, he failed. World War II, which killed tens of millions of soldiers and civilians still went ahead after “All Quiet on the Western Front’ had been read worldwide. Because WWI was over 100 years ago society may think that ‘AQWF’’s messages and intentions aren’t relative to today’s world. This isn’t true, today major wars are happening around the world such as the war between Ukraine and Russia. Innocent civilians and soldiers are experiencing war’s devastating effects. Remarque intentions of the text, there is no glory in war and war should be prevented under all circumstances are incredibly meaningful today, ‘AQWF’ and its messages need to be spread around the world.
Remarque clearly portrays the horrors of war to make his intention successful throughout the novel.