Essay All Quiet

Submitted By ChrisPAulino11
Words: 2128
Pages: 9

How does the extreme hardship and conflict of war destroy an individual? War often has profound and drastic effects on an individual. It deeply wounds the soul and deprives the body. Erich Maria Remarque investigates these damaging effects on an individual’s fragile identity in his novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. Paul Bäumer, the protagonist of Remarque’s novel, is a soldier in World War I, but more importantly, a victim of the spiritually and mentally depriving conditions of war. Paul, a young, artistic boy before the war, enlists into the German army in World War I with his entire class of young, eighteen-year old boys. Slowly throughout the conflict, Paul has horrifying, utterly brutal experiences; he sees his comrades die one by one, until he himself dies, the last of the class that enlisted together in the army. Such terrible experiences as a friend’s death from a grisly bullet wound destroy the human spirit. Paul, by the end of the novel, has lost his humanity, purpose, creative spirit, and ability to relate to society. At the end, Paul is left broken, both physically and mentally, and without the identity of his former self. Paul, a symbol for all soldiers in World War I, reveals a universal truth about war: The brutality of war shatters the identity of an individual, leaving only a shell of the former self. Paul, who has seen the death and depravity of the front, has become completely unable to relate to civilian society. His experience affects him so much that he can no longer connect with those who have never been in war. When Paul goes on leave, he has an opportunity to immerse himself in civilian life. While back home, Paul comes to a shocking realization of how the war has changed him, and how little he can understand civilians. Upon this realization, he says, “It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and to-day. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had only been in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find that I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world.” (168) Paul sees the dramatic transformation that he has undergone in his war experience. He no longer connects with his family and friends at home, but can only understand the fear and violence of war. Remarque chooses the diction “crushed” to show the extent of Paul’s loss of connection with society. Paul has, in essence, become isolated by his experience of the brutality of war from the “foreign world” that is civilian society. His inability to connect with his friends at home shows a loss of connection with society itself. Originally, before the war, Paul himself was a civilian, knew nothing of war, and connected well with society. Now that Paul has actually experienced the horrors of the battlefield, and has the spiritual scars of battle, he has lost touch with his old self, and his identity is crippled. Paul is no longer the young, innocent boy he was before. Rather, he is a callous soldier who can no longer integrate into nonmilitary matters. Even after his brutal experiences in war, Paul comes back to the front, mentally and physically exhausted by his return from civilian life. Upon his return to his friends from leave, Paul says, “I can hardly control myself any longer. But it will soon be all right again back here with Kat and Albert. This is where I belong.”(201) Because of his military experience, Paul has become increasingly drawn toward his comrades at war, and distanced from his home before the war. Even on his leave, Paul longs for the companionship of his fellow soldiers. Although Paul is fearful and miserable on the front, the pull of his comrades is stronger than the repulsion of military conflict. Paul’s increased connection with his friends on the front is a lingering motif in All Quiet on the Western Front, but this connection is an ominous sign of Paul’s loss of connection with society. Paul’s connection to his