Separation of European states into the blocks, their rivalry and the arms race: all this led to the bloodiest war that the history has ever known. It was never seen before that the warring parties had put such huge armies to mutual destruction. All the achievements of science and technology were directed to extermination. They killed everywhere: on land and in the air, on and under the water. 10 million people had been killed, 18 million wounded – that is the result of the war. The First World War, the economic crisis, a sharp aggravation of social tensions and the explosion of military force gave a strong impetus to the spontaneous spread of pacifist sentiment in the mass consciousness. Therefore, this paper's purpose is to review one of the most interesting books that are dedicated to the World War I as a primary source, which is All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque.
Remarque became known throughout the world due to the runaway success of his novel All Quiet on the Western Front that has been dedicated to the lost generation, i.e. to those who where born at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, just after the school had been thrown on the field of battle and deprived of normal self-determination and development. Remarque belonged to this generation. The novel had been translated into many languages; it had been published by the unprecedented number of copies. All Quiet on the Western Front brought worldwide fame to the author and provided him till the rest of his life. He could now help the needy workers of culture, what he did anonymously. However, the same novel and its movie adaptation caused the deprivation of nationality in the homeland of the writer, condemned him to exile, and his lifetime turned into a citizenship of the world. It expanded his vision of modernity, but it also gave rise to specific difficulties in his work as a German author.
At that time, Remarque lived in Switzerland, where he bought a house on the lake. In 1947, he received the US citizenship. The writer had been associated with Hollywood, as his novels were filmed there. There were also movies with the specially written scripts. Not once, he visited Italy and France where he stayed for a long time.
Remarque wrote not only in German, but also in the languages that composed the writer's environment. Pro-Nazi criticism reproached him by ignoring his statements, trying to assure that Germany is actually not so bad. But Remarque knew what he was writing about. He often travelled to Berlin to see what the Germans under Nazi authorities became. He realized that they will have to regain the trust and respect of other people.
The literature on Remarque noted that his works that had been created after the anti-war novels, such asAll Quiet on the Western Front and The Return, had never enjoyed the success in the countries of the former USSR. For the readers, Remarque really was and remains one of the favorite foreign authors. His books are translated into numerous languages, and are repeatedly published.
Explanation of the Author’s Point of View
The novel All Quiet on the Western Front was written with the utmost sincerity. The writer tells about his true experiences. The reader received first-hand story forcing to empathize, to cause sympathy for these boys dressed in soldiers' uniforms, who are daily and hourly killed by war. It means that the author aimed to depict the details of the war – not the events in their chronological order – but the feelings people experienced.
Summary of Contents
The World War occupies a special place in the works of art of the early twentieth century. Many poets and writers followed the course of the fighting. As witnessed the events, literary figures reflect themselves on the pages of their works, showing the true picture of the war years.
Regarding Remarque, the anti-war novel in question tells about his experiences and what he had seen on the front through the eyes of the young soldier, Paul Bäumer, and his comrades on the front line of the First World War. Like Ernest Hemingway, Remarque used the term of “lost generation” to describe young people who were not able to get into civilian life because of the mental injuries caused by war. The artwork by Remarque, thus, stood in sharp contrast to the right-wing conservative military literature, prevailed in the era of the Weimar Republic,that tried to justify the lost war heroes of Germany and its soldiers.
The book shows that after school, the shoolchildren went to barracks. There, they got acquainted with the charms of a military drill in practice. Filled with self-esteem, backed by the authority of his uniform, theexasperated martinet – a cog in a complex system of militaristic state apparatus – begins to beat out of the recruits the remnants of free-thinking, trying to turn them into helpless, blindly killing machines. The novel's characters realize that all of this drill is needed in order to obscure the head.
After the barracks they saw the front. The harsh school of merciless, where the opportunity dies every minute, where there is complete helplessness and inability to understand what happened. As the flock of the novel’s characters stray in a heap, unable to understand whether they should die or kill in the name of the provoked glory.
The heroes of Remarque are covered with the warlike enthusiasm, initially thinking that they fight for their country. But when it comes to war, its meaning is lost, and the enemy no longer appears as such. War broke Remarque's heroes. They and their souls are put on an indelible stigma, and even in the circle of the friends from the front they are gloomy, melancholic and lonely. Single people, on whose shoulders the burden of unprecedented social injustice lies, pay their lives for the society, for whom war is an inevitable companion. They hate war – they are very well aware of it, because they can not know anything different. The war paved the point of no return between those who appeared at the front, who drank soup from the front-line pot, and those who remained in the rear.
At the very beginning of the novel Remarque shows how different was the attitude of people of different classes to the war. This is particularly evident when Paul arrives home for the vacation. On his arrival, he sees the terrible poverty of his loved ones, the need of the masses and exhausted strength of the lower class. The burden of the war was on the shoulders of the poor and common people. It could be seen in the long queues of housewives standing at the doors of shops and gray tired faces of the workers. Germany lost the war not only at the front, where heavy fights killed the youths of replenishment, who felt the steady pressure from the Allied forces, but the war was lost in the rear as well. It is obvious that German imperialism did not calculate its strength, and Remarque rightly pointed out the weakness of the German home front during World War I. He acts against the nationalist legend of the revolution as the cause of Germany's defeat. Kaiser Empire was doomed to lose the war, and the heroes of the novel understand it.
But there was no understanding of the wealthy class representatives. When Bäumer gets into the society of people with money, he hears a different speech. They argue about the need of annexation. Director with an iron chain for watch wants to take the most: the whole of Belgium, France and the coal regions of Russia. He gives solid evidence of why they should get all, and remains unyielding while the others do not agree with him. For some reason none of these well-off people are interested in the opinions of those directly involved in the front-line combat. For the big German monopolies are cannon fodders.
Thus, the question is whether Paul would be able to live in a society of such people after the war? Toward the end of the novel, in the infirmary and pessimism, Paul probably reaches its highest point. How will the young people brought up by the war, blood and violence be able to adapt to civilian life? How will the young men, for whom the killing of a human has become commonplace, will be able to start a family, learn a profession, become normal members of society? But the main tragic conflict of the novel is that the heroes, for whom there is nothing more precious and sacred than human life, are not only forced to murder, but delivered in such a wild position when it becomes a necessity, almost a necessity. In any case, all these questions find no answers.
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Conclusion: What Can We Learn From This Document?
Almost all the novels that had been written by Remarque carry the memories of World War I on behalf of one of the characters, and almost always with the same detailed description of the area and the events taking place there. All these works were studied by literary critics and interested parties. The narration in the novel is carried out by the young man who went to the front from school with his classmates. In fact, it is narrated by Remarque, because it is the story of the author as well as hundreds of thousands of other young people who find themselves at that time front. Thus, we can learn the human beings' reaction to the events that took place during the bloody time of the World War. The author depicted who can be a hero, and who can be a villain. Thus, the essence of the book consists in the fact that the author aimed to depict the inner world of the war and its agents. In addition to this, the novel in question regards to the psychology of persons who had undergone the military events.