7 May 2015
All Quiet on the Western Front
If a typical teenager would describe a war, he/she would probably refer to some action movies or videos games. The assumption about war is, by their view that war is all about endless action without leaving any “mental scars” and effects on the soldiers. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque suggests otherwise. The book describes Paul's experience in the second company while fighting on French western front in the First World War. From Paul’s perspective, the book exhibits his interaction with friends throughout the war and tells his story. Remarque also indicates through Paul’s character that mental effects are not absent after a war and action is not the only component of it.
Through imagery and by comparing the changes in the protagonist’s behavior, Remarque illustrates how being progressively exposed to an escalating experiences during a war causes a post-traumatic stress disorder and desperation.
As the book continues and the war advances, Remarque uses imagery components to show the how the battles become more and more horrifying and how the imagery begins to match to the theme of war. Contrasting the imagery between the beginning of the book and the end of it, one sees how Remarque shifts the description from an irrelevant imagery and one that does not illustrates the theme of war to a relative imagery and one that parallels with the theme of the war. For example, in the beginning of the book and as the war begins, the readers are introduced to what it seems like an unrelated imagery of the war. The imagery includes Paul describing his war experiences so in the while staying base camp.
“What’s more important still is the issue of a double ration of smokes. Ten cigars, twenty cigarettes, and two quids of chew per man; now that is decent. I have exchanged my chewing tobacco with Katczinsky for his cigarettes, which means I have forty altogether. That's enough for a day.”(3)
Remarque focuses his writing describing how the man are dividing the cigars, tobacco and cigarettes between them, by stating “What’s more important still is the issue of a double ration of smokes” it implies that these are the activities the soldiers engaging most of their time, also this imagery does not represent the theme of the war due to its irrelevancy of the objects that are present in the imagery such as smoking and chewing goods. During the war soldiers are fighting the majority of the time. However, as the book begins and the war has not started yet, the readers get a different sense of what war is, due to the figurative language that Remarque uses. It seems like soldiers are occupying themselves with minor activities most of their time. But as the book proceeds, Remarque’s detailed writing escalates and the imagery he puts in writing associates more to the theme of war. For instance, in chapter 4. Point of view is the protagonist, Paul’s, perspective to reveal how they are being attacked in the front.
“... A cloud of flame shoots up a hundred yards ahead of us. The next minute under a second explosion part of the wood rises slowly in the air, three or four trees sail up and then crash to pieces...” (65) This imagery is more familiar with the theme of war, while it different and more related to war from the illustration shown above, it not quite as the same as the reader would expect from this type of book. Although the elements of war are present such as explosion, flames, smoke and etc. It just not as what as the readers would anticipate due to the lack of the soldier’s reaction. The imagery only illustrates the visual aspects of the attack, it does not include the feeling and the thoughts of the soldier about it. Yet, as the book reaches to its ending, Remarque imagery reach its climax as it revealing the horror of the war. In chapter 11, approaching the end of the book and the war, Paul saves his last friend’s life only to discover he got hit in the