Thousands of men rushed
Thousands of men rushed to sign up for the first World War and they were all hoping to come back with one accomplishment: glory. They knew the path in front of them was not going to be easy and the possibility of being killed on the battlefield was high, but the idea of obtaining glory clouded the terrible consequences of war. All Quiet on the Western Front critiques the idea that war is a glorious event through Paul and his comrades' experiences. Remarque demonstrates the monstrosities of war through Paul’s journey as he loses his humanity and patriotism. Paul is constantly reminded of humanity and patriotism he lacks because of the war. All Quiet on the Western Front displays war as an undignified event and a time when one’s patriotism and humanity are stripped away which contrasts with the traditional and romantic view of war.
One traditional view of war is patriotism. Soldiers should be willing to die for their mother country according to patriotic views. Remarque critiques the view that soldiers are supposed to be willing to sacrifice themselves for their country by writing Paul and his comrades as soldiers who are unwilling to sacrifice their entire being for Germany. Paul and his comrades do not believe in the views of their German leaders because “[Paul and his comrades] are here to protect [their] fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?” (203). By questioning the German leaders’ opinions and tactics, Paul and his comrades do not display a traditional view of patriotism. Paul wonders if fighting for his fatherland is the right action to do when the enemy is merely doing the same. Instead of blindly fighting for his fatherland, Paul tries to look at the war in a different way than his leaders which contrast with the older generations’ way of thinking. The older generation in the war fighting along Paul displays the people who have traditional views of war. Remarque writes the older generation as people who are aimlessly following the German leaders. Throughout the war, they “continued to write and walk, [the younger generation] saw the wounded and dying. While [the older generation] taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, [the younger generation] already knew that death-throes are stronger” (13). The older generation could not see the faults and consequences of war because of the patriotism they carried with them. Remarque writes them to be dedicated to Germany while the younger generation cannot understand the patriotism the older generation seems to possess. By not following the traditional views of patriotism in war, Remarque clearly emphasizes the lack of patriotism in Paul throughout the book.
Another traditional aspect of war besides patriotism is humanity. People are supposed to be benevolent and willing to help other people out. In war, soldiers are risking their lives for the future of their country and its citizens. The idea of doing something good for the sake of humanity is admirable and sought after by aspiring soldiers. But Paul and his comrades do not think of themselves as good people and Remarque once even characterized them as devils. Paul, when killing a man face to face, dehumanized himself in that instance and thought of the man as an “abstraction that lived in [Paul’s] mind and called forth its appropriate response” (223). Paul did not want to kill an innocent man face to face because the man is not an idea anymore. The enemy man is not in the distance without a face, is a person to Paul. Paul instinctively characterized the man as an abstraction to justify his action of stabbing the man. The instincts are animalistic and meant for survival; a normal human living in a civilized society would not act in such an animalistic way, but Paul does because the war stripped him of humanity. The war encourages their savage instincts and teaches them gruesome survival tactics such as “stick[ing] a bayonet in the belly because there it doesn’t get jammed, as it does in the ribs” (85). Though Paul and his comrades never want to do such horrendous actions, the war forces them to do so. If they do not follow their animalistic instincts, then they will die. Wars causes soldiers to become a wild shell of their previous selves. Remarque displays the soldiers in All Quiet on the Western Front as dehumanized people to criticize the romantic view of war. People will try to do anything to survive and their actions are not always for the good of the country; war is the perfect event for the true savage instincts to arise from the people.
Remarque wrote All Quiet on the Western Front to critique the idea that war is traditional and romantic. The lack of patriotism and humanity in Paul clearly depicts the ruthlessness of war, indicating that war is not an event supposed to be glorified. The true nature of war came out through Remarque’s writing and clearly depicts war as an event that stripped Paul’s humanity and patriotism when the traditional view would have thought of the outcome as the opposite.
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