The Real Image of War
A Reflection on All Quiet on the Western Front
Those living in the years of 1916 to 1918 were faced with unprecedented types of warfare and disruption in their daily lives as a result of World War I. Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front captures this fierce brutality and total devastation as it traces the journey of Paul Baumer, a young German soldier stationed on the western front until the better end in 1918. Paul and his friends must not only come to terms with the grisly reality of trench warfare but also the thought that they will never experience life like they could have before the war. Through this shockingly understated account, Remarque illustrates his own feelings on World War I and rouses sympathy from both sides at the tumultuous time of publishing but also the present where similar themes and sentiments carry over into today’s world.
Much of the success of the novel comes from not just the fact that it displays the true horrors of war as none who did not fight could ever perceive, but did so through the eyes of a young German soldier, Paul Baumer. Paul’s factual descriptions and nostalgic reveries combine to provide a more accurate picture of the front than any textbook portrayal ever could. Paul describes what he sees around him with such understatement that it makes the event even more gruesome, as the reader realizes such things are a part of this young man’s daily routine. For example, when Paul and Albert are on the train going to the hospital, Paul says, “Sometimes it halts and the dead are unloaded. It halts often.” Yet Paul’s point of view also provides reasons as to why he can find things such as “men living with their skulls blown open…with their two feet cut off” and “a man who has held the artery of his arm with his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death” so commonplace. Paul is an extremely thoughtful person, who often slips...