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"All Quiet On The Western Front"
Transcript of "All Quiet On The Western Front"
The Tragedy of War
1. Literary Devices
2. Controlling Idea
3. Identify Archetypes
Point of view
Remarque effectively uses the point of view of first person to narrate the story. What is interesting about this choice is it is also the point of view of a German soldier. It is uncommon to experience the stories of war from the side of the enemy and it would have been extremely uncommon in 1956 when the book was written. We know what our perspective is on war. This book challenges our perspective on the reality of the German side.
The reality of war is conflict and “All Quiet on the Western Front” is the story of conflict between man versus man. Paul and his comrades are German soldiers. They are tasked to fight the Allied forces across the front line. Even though we do not directly meet the enemy, we are aware that the battle is against them.
Man vs. Man
Perhaps Paul's greatest conflict is with himself as he questions his own life, his role within the world, and his own sanity. With each turning page the reader goes deeper into Paul's thoughts and observations. Paul lives in a reality where the only escape from the horrors of war is through death. Death to Paul is a certainty. The only question, is when.
Man vs. Self
An underlying conflict within the story is man versus society. Paul and the other soldiers are questioning the true nature and irony of society. An example of this is when a janitor moves in rank to become a commander or a general. Society is turned upside down as the stories of war are told.
Man vs. Society
It goes without saying that in war man must also challenge nature. There are numerous scenes where the soldiers are battling weather, elements, and animals. During the battle against the rats where the soldiers are overrun by the rodents and are forced to kill them just like the enemy is an example of mans challenge with nature.
Man. Vs. Nature
In “All Quiet on the Western Front” the setting plays a very important role in the overall effectiveness of the story. In reality there couldn't be a more bleak or miserable existence than that of a soldier on the front line. The author does a very effective job of providing contrast to the setting. As the story proceeds we realize the settings in each sub plot parallel one another.
World War One:
The overall setting is in World War I, more specifically, the frontline. “All Quiet on the Western Front” does an excellent job bringing to life the horrible existence of the trenches. The author uses each of our five senses fully grasp the awfulness of life in the trenches – he's dramatic and gives us a visual of the ground being destroyed by the bombardment, the sound of falling bombs is deafening, the smell of gunpowder mixed with detaining dead bodies is rancid, the touch of shattered wood and body parts is discussed, and the suffocating taste of stale air and chlorine gas brings the experience of war alive to the reader.
Paul is given the opportunity to visit several hospitals throughout the book. At first glance these hospitals provide a sanctuary from the horrors of war; the reality is that there is death and walking wounded around every corner. Once again, the author does an excellent job at awakening the reader senses to see the parallels of war.
Paul is given the opportunity to go home on a leave. At first he sees this new setting as relief and sanctuary. He quickly becomes aware that his family of soldiers continue the battle for which he is not part. The horrors of war will not even leave him when he is away. Guilt, anger, and obligation drive him back to the front line.
There is an interesting scene towards the end of the story where the soldiers share time together in an abandoned basement. Once again the author gives the illusion of relief and sanctuary but this is short-lived as the reality of war closes around them everywhere.
Paul Bäumer - Paul is the protagonist and also the narrator in the novel. He is a 18 year old German soldier who is called to fight in the trenches in World War I. At the beginning of the story he is a kind schoolboy who is sensitive and compassionate to his friends and family. He is drawing to the war with romantic and adventurous ideals but this soon turns on him as he experiences the brutal reality of war. As he accounts for his experiences in war's personality becomes detached and bitter.
There are several minor characters which interact with Paul throughout the novel. Stanislaus Katczinsky (Kat) who is Paul's best friend, Müller who is one of Paul's classmates, and Kantorek who is the authoritarian schoolmaster who initially puts pressure on Paul and his classmates to fight in the war. Although there are numerous minor characters intertwined throughout the novel, they all weave together their personal stories to allow the reader to fully engage the culture of the novel.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is a story of an 19-year-old German student named Paul Bäumer who along with his friends volunteer to become soldiers fighting the first world war. They are encouraged and sometimes bullied through the patriotic speeches of a teacher when they dislike. This story is about the trials, tribulations, horror and the cruelty fighting on the front line. As the story progresses Paul and his friends begin to act as machines in order to cope with their reality; they learn to handle bullets and bombs but compromise if they lose their humanity.
The theme in “All Quiet on the Western Front” is that of a generation lost in the horrors of war. It is best summed up in Paul's statement "that the months and years, they can take nothing from me, I am so alone and so without hope that I can confront them without fear” (12 Remarque).
The controlling idea is that soldiers are replaceable and are dehumanized by those of higher status. Death and the process of dying is without prejudice and above all, unavoidable. The characters in “All Quiet on the Western Front” are meant to signify the generation of World War I. Why is it that the brave must die in the weak survive and how is it that soldiers can remain sane while there's so much death around.
There are three major archetypes in the story “
All Quiet on the Western Fron
t.” These archetypes are tragedy, irony, and overcoming the monster.
Tragedy - The sheer nature of war is tragedy. We are introduced to characters with whom it is easy to relate with. These characters develop throughout the story however the reality is they are slowly deteriorating. The reader always maintains the idea that “A
ll Quiet on the Western Front
” refers to the end of the war and it is expected that Paul will live beyond that end. The tragedy is that on the final days of war when all is quiet on the frontline, he is killed in battle.
Irony - The second archetype is irony. The story is filled with many illustrations of irony. The fact that the lower-class workers in society can rise to high-level positions during wartime. When the soldiers first go to war it is filled with glamour and excitement; upon arriving for field training and eventually the frontline, they realize it is the complete opposite. Another irony is that the enemy with whom they are fighting are just like themselves. The final example of irony is when Paul is killed on the last day of the war after surviving so much.
Overcoming the Monster - The third archetype is overcoming the monster. There are two monsters in the story, the first is in the mind of a soldier, the second is the enemy must be defeated or else they will lose the war. This is the classic archetype associated with warriors.
Analyse the Archetype
Tragedy plays an important role in "a
ll quiet on the Western front"
, the author does an excellent job at demonstrating that war is not glamorous and changes lives forever. Tragedy is best seen as related to the conflict within the novel. With man versus man we see terrible brutality [scene where Paul kills the enemy with his bare hands]. With man versus himself, the reader experiences the inner conflict of front-line soldiers, how they numb themselves to the horrific scenes they witness and also how they adapt. With man versus nature, we see the sheer destructive force of bombs, Barb wire, and poisonous gases, as they are used against the land. The ultimate tragedy is in Paul’s death towards the end of the book; the author provides the reader with enough confidence that Paul will survive, that we are left with a sense of loss in the final scene of the book.
When we examine the archetype of overcoming the monster, it amplifies the tragedy and irony of the story. The characters enter the war as champions of Germany, ready and willing to lay down their lives to defeat the monster they know is the enemy. Where the enemy really lies is within the souls of the soldiers; they are called to battle more than a human enemy. They are challenged to overcome their minds, the society which they are fighting for, and the day-to-day challenges of living in an environment which is unfit for human survival.
Within each scene of this novel, irony unfolds. Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the novel is that war is seen initially as glamorous. The students are persuaded to enlist in the war with the promise of patriotism, glorious defeat, honor, and enticing uniforms and rank. Upon arriving at boot camp they are treated with brutality, and abuse. Even more ironic is the eventual life in the trenches which is nothing like what was promised. Other examples of irony can be found throughout the book in lesser scenes; access food and cigarettes are the results of massive casualties in recent battles. The soldiers take shelter under the coffins and in the graves of dead comrades who not even in death are excused from battle. The final and most profound moment of irony is in Paul’s death on the very last day of war when all is quiet on the Western front.
Evaluate & Critique
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is an excellent depiction of World War I. The author uses a small group of soldiers to represent the lost generation of that era. The novel is particularly interesting as it is told from the perspective of the German soldier, a perspective that we are not often exposed to in our culture. The novel makes effective use of powerful literary devices and themes which engage the reader from the very first page to the very last word. Throughout the novel the reader is exposed to the realities and horrors of battle with leave very little to the imagination as to what it must’ve been like in the trenches of Europe. The vividness of the descriptions engaged all of our senses from sight, sound, touch, smell, and even taste; allowing the reader to experience what it must have been like.
Evaluate & Critique
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is a credible depiction of World War One and it draws many connections to our current day global environment. Currently, there is not a day that goes by where we don’t hear about war, destruction, and conflict. From afar, these conflicts seem surreal and detached from our lives. The reality is that men and women are in situations throughout the world just like Paul’s; their lives are being changed through the violence and destruction of war. Lives are being torn apart and the landscape of our planet is being destroyed. Our modern story as well as “All Quiet on the Western Front” speak of “a generation of men who, even though they may have escape shells, were destroyed by war” (intro). In conclusion, this novel is one which should be read by every generation. It speaks to the horror and destruction that war induces, to humanity, to our planet, and to the heroes who make it their mission to bring an end to war.