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The Brutality of War: World War I All Quiet on the Western Front Project

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Matt Gillis

on 7 January 2013

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Transcript of The Brutality of War: World War I All Quiet on the Western Front Project

All Quiet on the Western Front Brutality of War Introduction The End World War 1, also known as the “Total War” due to the fact that the war became each involved country’s first priority, took the lives of over 9,000,000 soldiers in a period of four years. The war is known as one of the most tragic, all-consuming wars in the history of worldwide conflicts, second to the Holocaust during World War II. The brutality of this war was endured by all sections of the army, specifically the infantry. Ranging from trench warfare to the death-ensuring “No Man’s Land,” World War I perfectly encompasses the theme “Brutality of War,” and is further exemplified in Erich Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front. Trench Warfare The Hospital The Hospital Continued In conclusion, Paul finally understands the extent of deceit experienced by his teacher Kantorek. Paul, Joseph Behm, Tjaden; all of his fellow nineteen year old soldiers had been cheated by their patriotic teacher. The naivety of these soldiers is shattered upon entering the front line. Brutality of War plays a major role in the novel by forever scarring and impacting Paul negatively (shown by his disappointed arrival Trench Warfare, the creation of a series of large deep canals in to provide protection from enemy fire, artillery, and shelling provided to the stagnant progression experienced in the middle of World War I. Some trenches were permanent and designed for long term stay, while others were temporary and much less accommodated. Regardless of transiency, living in the trenches was simply horrible. Soldiers lived in constant fear of being attacked either by artillery or by chemical means (chlorine gas was leaked in enemy trenches). Exiting a trench could ensure sudden death in "No Man's Land" where it was certain you would be shot. Imagine living a week to week with almost nothing to eat or drink in constant battle. All Quiet on the Western Front truly exemplifies these living conditions. Gruesome Sites Instead of traveling to Russia, Paul travels down to the front line again, passing a devastated wood with tree trunks shattered and the ground torn apart. "In the branches dead men are hanging. A naked soldier is squatting in the fork of a tree, he still has his helmet on, otherwise he is entirely unclad. There is only half of him sitting up there, the top half, the legs are missing. 'What can that mean?' I ask. 'He's been blown out of his clothes,' mutters Tjaden (208)." These horrible sights he views capture the essence of the brutality and grotesqueness of the battle. His prior innocence upon witnessing this is shattered after the death of the man is explained. This is a pivotal moment for Paul as he truly understands the devastation of the war. As Paul and his fellow soldiers are leaving another village, they are attacked by enemy shelling and are injured. "Then I take a look at myself. My trousers are bloody and my arm, too. Albert binds up my wound with his field dressing. Already he is no longer able to move his leg, and we both wonder how we managed to get this far. Fear alone made it possible; we should have run even if our feet had been shot off; - we would have run on the stumps" (241). This reference to previously seeing men "running with stumps as legs" truly captures the fear and utter horror of fighting on the front line. After Kropp and Paul are severely injured
on the front line of battle in chapter nine, they must stop at the Catholic hospital where they
truly see the devastation and atrocities of the war.
Paul is operated for two days straight when he arrives at the hospital, for his leg
will not grow back together after he has been shot. Albert, another soldier in the hospital, is not so lucky and must lose his leg. "The whole leg has been taken off from the thigh. Now he will hardly speak any more. Once he says he will shoot himself the first time he can get hold of his revolver again." (260-261). Despite Kropp and Paul's recovery, the gruesome amputations and sights they had seen in the hospital truly show the brutality of warfare. "Here a man realizes for the first time in how many places a man can get hit. Two fellows die of tetanus. Their skin turns pale, their limbs stiffen, at last only their eyes live-stubbornly. Many of the wounded have their shattered limbs hanging free in the air from a gallows; underneath the wound a basin is placed into which drips the pus. Every two or three hours the vessel is emptied. Other men lie in stretching bandages with heavy weights hanging from the end of the bed. I see intestine wounds that are constantly full of excreta. The surgeon's clerk shows me X-ray photographs of completely smashed hipbones, knees and shoulders" (263). The Hospital scene shows the reader how many soldiers have participated in this traumatic and brutal warfare. The shocking extent of the injuries Paul views in the hospital is a perfect example of the senselessness and large extent of the war. It further provides to Paul's lack of motivation to return to his prior state; he has seen the unthinkable. After Paul inhales poisonous gas on the line (chemical weaponry), he loses his motivation to continue. "Let the months and years come, they can take nothing from me, the can take nothing more. I am so alone, and so without hope that I an confront them without fear" (295). In conclusion, the brutality of war and traumatic experiences Paul endured with his companions have truly brought him to the point of hopelessness. r Earlier in the novel, Paul, on the front line facing the Germans, violently and furiously works to destroy his enemies. "The days go by and the incredible hours follow one another as a matter of course. Attacks alternate with counter-attacks and slowly the dead pile up in the field of craters between the trenches" (124). This particular quote truly shows the seemingly senseless devastation of the war and capture the mass amount of death and destruction that had occurred throughout the war. When Paul returns back to the front in Chapter 9, he volunteers to delve into "No Man's Land" in order to gain information about the enemy. However, during the mission, the enemy begins firing; he must lay down and pretend to have already been shot. "I lie huddled in a large shell-hole, my legs in the water up to the belly. When the attack starts I will let myself fall into the water, with my face as deep in the mud as I can keep it without suffocating. I must pretend to be dead" (214). This quote provides a perfect example of the horrific job an infantry member must face exiting the trench. In Chapter 11, after Paul has been in the trenches for almost two weeks, he states,
"But we are emaciated and starved. Our food is bad and mixed up with so much substitute that it makes us ill... dysentery dissolves our bowels" (280). This quote exemplifies life in the trenches; dysentery from public latrines, little to no food on the front line, and little rest. Disease was common and widespread due to the lack of sanitation. Trench Warfare Cont. Shelling and Devastation Hospital Beds World War 1 Trench Warfare Trench Latrines Trench Weaponry WW1 "Graves" The majority of the graves during WW1 for befallen soldiers were crude; burials were shallow and oftentimes deceased members would resurface.
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