|All Quiet on the Western Front
Author: Maddy46 PM
"This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession,and least of all an adventure,for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. ... "An essay that proves this statement from Erich Remarque's 'All Quiet on the Western Front'Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Words: 1,354 - Published: 03-27-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3008376
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"This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have survived its shells, were destroyed by the war."
The preface means that the book, "All Quiet on the Western Front" written by Erich Maria Remarque, is not intended as either an accusation or confession of the German troops that fought in the Great War. It is not an adventure, for the soldiers were surrounded by death. It is merely the story of the generation that was destroyed by the war. It is about the men who fought in the war, and how they adjusted and felt about it. The narrator, Paul Baumer, is a German soldier fighting on the Western Front along with his classmates, in the First World War.
Firstly, the physical destruction caused by the war to the soldiers and the land was beyond belief. Secondly, the war caused mental destruction to the men on the front lines. Along with physical and mental destruction, emotional destruction afflicted the soldiers. Finally, the men's views of idealism/war heroism were destroyed by the conflict.
Firstly, the physical destruction caused by the war to the soldiers and the land was beyond belief. A quote from the book that proves this is "We've got to move him right away,' he continues. "We need the bed. We've already got them lying on the ground out there." (Page 23) It describes an image of many soldiers lying on the ground in a hospital, with injuries and sicknesses that could bring death to them. If, in a time of war, hospitals are needing more beds and room for the soldiers who have been physically affected by the war, then there must have been a substantial amount of destruction caused.
"The brown earth, the torn and mangled brown earth, shimmering greasily under the sun's rays, becomes a backdrop for our dulled and ever-moving automatic actions, our harsh breathing is the rasping of clockwork, our lips are dry and our heads feel worse than after a nights hard drinking-and so we stumble onwards, while into our bullet-ridden, shot-through souls, the image of the brown earth insinuates itself painfully, the brown earth with the greasy sun and the dead or twitching soldiers, who lie there as if that were perfectly normal, and who grab at our legs and scream as we jump over them." (Page 80) This is a very powerful quote, as it clearly paints the picture of a war-torn land and soldiers, and describes the physical destruction to both the land and men, as well as the mental destruction to the soldiers who survived the attack, and even to those that didn't. The physical destruction done to the men and earth was certainly beyond belief.
Secondly, the war caused mental destruction to the men on the front lines. "The first recruit seems to have gone completely crazy. If we let go of him, he butts his head against the wall like a goat. Tonight we shall have to try to get him back into the rear zone." (Page 77) This section is a particularly important part in the book, as it clearly shows how the men's mental states are affected by being on the front line, where gunfire, shelling and death constantly surrounds them. The young recruits, with no previous experience of being under such heavy assault, go crazy the first time, from the noise of the explosions and the lack of room in the shelters and dugouts, where they hide during a time of attack. The older soldiers, as well, are affected mentally by the war. Like the young recruits, they have gone crazy in times of assault, but as they spend more time at the front, and see more of the horrible things war brings, they become slightly more adjusted to life there, but have a hard time erasing what they see, hear and do, from their minds. In conclusion, the mental destruction was just as bad, if not worse, than the physical destruction caused by the war.
Along with the physical and mental destruction, emotional destruction was a part of the devastation that the war caused. The section of the book where the screaming and crying of horses, wounded after being attacked, caused extreme reactions by the soldiers, and shows some of the emotional destruction to the soldiers. "We sit down and press our hands over our ears. But the terrible crying and groaning and howling still gets through, it penetrates everything. We can all stand a lot, but this brings us out in a cold sweat. You want to get up and run away, anywhere so as not to hear that screaming anymore. And it isn't men, just horses." (Page 44) This passage in particular demonstrates emotional destruction fairly clearly. Detering, a dedicated farmer who enlisted in the army, had an especially strong reaction to hearing and seeing the innocent horses wounded. In fact, he began to scream and cry at the sight of the poor horses, and picked up a gun, preparing to put an end to their misery by giving them merciful deaths, however, he is stopped by Kat, an older soldier, in charge of their company.
Another part of the novel that shows emotional destruction takes place at the end. "Am I walking? Do I still have legs? I look up, I look about me. And then I turn right round, and then I stop. Everything is just the same as usual. It's just that Private Stanislaus Katczinsky is dead. After that I remember nothing." (Page 198) This quote comes after Kat is carried by his brother-like friend, Paul, back to the dressing station, after an injury is sustained to his lower leg. During the long and exhausting walk back, Kat received a deadly wound, a tiny piece of shrapnel to the head, and, unbeknownst to Paul, dies. This physical destruction to his best friend causes Paul extreme emotional pain. He has, by that time, lost everyone and everything important to him, and does not know how to react. Following the death of his last friend, Paul does not appear to care about anything, for he has nothing left to lose, in his eyes.
Finally, the men's views of idealism/war heroism were destroyed by the conflict. A quote from the novel that proves this is: "'Home Guardsman Kantorek,' I said, 'two years ago your sermonizing drove us all to enlist; Joseph Behm as well, and he didn't really want to go. He was killed three months before he would've been conscripted. Without you, he would've waited until then. Now: Dismiss! I shall be speaking to you again.'" (Page 120) Home Guardsman Kantorek was the teacher of Paul's class. He, believing he was doing a good thing, encouraged his class to enlist. Joseph Behm, a reluctant student, enlisted, only to be killed soon after. He could've waited three months, and possibly survived. This quote shows that these men were told great things about war, only to see their friends die, not be fed enough, and put their lives at risk frequently. They became to think of this as normal, their ideas about war heroism destroyed.
The preface of Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front", tells that the novel is not an accusation or confession, and is not in the slightest an adventure. The physical destruction the soldiers endured, the mental destruction they suffered, the emotional destruction they faced and the destruction of war/idealism that they sustained due to the war, was most certainly not an adventure. "And yes, that is what they think, those hundred thousand Kantoreks. Young men of iron. Young? None of us is more than twenty. But young? Young men? That was a long time ago. We are old now." (Page 13)