All Quiet On The Western Front “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a novel written by Erich Maria Remarque. It is a war novel that tells the story of a young man and his experiences in combat during World War I. The title of the novel roots from a phrase used to describe the silence between shellings and infantry attacks during the battles fought on the western front ( Text, 895 ). Although World War I was a very real event, the testaments of the main character in “All Quiet on the Western Front” is purely fictional, but they are based on the accounts of veterans of the war. In order to understand most of the events that took place in the novel it is essential to understand how the war erupted. After Serbia refused to apologize to Austria for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, Germany pushed Austria to declare war. Germanys desire to start a war can be explained by the internal tensions that were increasing in the country at the time.
The assassination was a timely scapegoat to direct the peoples attention and animosity to external sources. In short, on July 28, 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia and the allies of each country joined in, starting this global war. Paul Baumer is a young soldier who volunteered to enter into the German army with a group of his schoolmates. All the events that take place in the novel are seen through Pauls eyes, they are described on the basis of the perspective of this young soldier. In the first chapter, Paul recalls the reasons for why he and his friends enlisted. He talks about their schoolmaster, Kantorek, who would lecture them constantly on the fact that they should “join up” (pg. 11).
Another reason that played as a factor for many young men being so enthusiastic to join the army was the propaganda of the time. Nationalism was the theme in the propaganda that persuaded the men to enlist. It was taught to young minds that it was their obligation to protect and to die for their country if they loved their nation and their people. As the novel goes on, it depicts scenes of combat that Paul lives through. It describes the type of warfare that is used and the thoughts that run through Pauls mind as he sits in the trench hoping he doesnt die.
As Paul and the other soldiers move closer to the front, their chances for survival become slimmer. The front that is referred to, is in Belgium, and it is the boundary that the Germans were invading. The French and British were attempting to get the Germans out of Belgium and this is where the fighting that Paul engages in and witnesses takes place. By the sixth chapter of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, Paul has reached the front. He describes it as being “..a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen..and live in a suspense of uncertainty” ( pg.
101 ). His description of his time in the trench evokes emotion in the reader, in that they can get a feel for the kind of trauma one endures in that situation. The death toll resulting from the battles on the western front was enormous for both sides. Germans would advance through the French lines of defense but the French would hold their positions and slaughter Germans on a massive scale. Both offensive strategies and defense plans on behalf of both the French and the Germans, were often ineffective, resulting in casualties and injury.
A lot of these strategies and tactics are described in the novel. Trench warfare is illustrated as Paul describes his narrow escape from death when a shell lands in the trench he is in (pg. 106). This back and forth killing ended up as a stalemate that had a death toll of millions. “All Quiet on the Western Front” also portrays the use of the new weapons, never before used in any previous wars.
New technology, mechanization and new tactics of warfare were implemented in the battles of this war. For the first time soldiers were ordered to dig ditches and fire their machine guns from behind the walls of these trenches. This became known as trench warfare and it was an unprecedented strategy that proved to be effective for a defensive war. New weaponry emerged during this war such as the flame thrower which was first used by the German army. Paul expresses concern over this new weapon as he thinks to himself of what weapons the enemy might use ( pg. 105).
Chlorine gas was first used in 1915 by the Germans, and Mustard gas, which causes severe blistering, was introduced two years later ( Text, 891). Both sides were capable of creating new weapons of destruction, so this constant”progress” only resulted in increasing casualty rates, but no significant victory. World War I was the bloodiest war that the world had ever experienced. It came to an end when Germany surrendered in 1918, mainly due to the entering of the United States on the side of the British. The impact that the war had on the soldiers is told in “All Quiet on the Western Front”.
Not only does Paul describe the events that he goes through, but he also describes his understanding that the war has changed him forever. He doesnt believe that he can ever return to normal life after having gone through what he has. Facing death and killing has made him old beyond his years and he confirms that when he says “..Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk” (pg. 18).
Paul describes his acknowledgment that the war has transformed him when he describes that the soldiers have been transformed “..into thugs, into murderers, into God only knows what devils..” ( pg.114 ). Naturally “a beast” is incapable of returning to a civilian life. This is the unfortunate fate of the soldiers who survived the war.