All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Rema
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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Little, Brown and Company. (U.S.A., 1990) 248pp.
“We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers – we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals.” (53)
All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel full of the truth and hardships of WWI. Narrated by Paul Baumer, one of the four nineteen year olds, that form the Second Company. “And four are nineteen years of age, and all four joined up from the same class as volunteer for the war.”(8) The story of four childhood friends that try to survive the war; Kropp, Muller, Kemmerich, and Paul Baumer. Then there’s Tjaden, Haie, Detering, Leer and their leader Kat. All eight form strong bonds and together try to stay alive.
At first Baumer describes the little anecdotes that only they know of. Things like how they got the chance to beat Himmelstoss, their disciplinarian at camp; how on a hungry night Kat found horsemeat and bread. Kemmerich dies soon. Baumer doesn’t describe much of the front line that for him “Killing each separate louse is a tedious business when a man has hundreds.” (69) They go back and forth from the front line. Haie is second to die. Baumer gets seventeen days off after a heavy bombardment —fourteen days leave and three days for traveling. He goes back to his hometown in which he finds all to be the same but he does not belong anymore to that scenario. He goes to training camp and then returns to the front.
The squad is sent to patrol a town that has been heavily bombed. Baumer and Kropp get injured. Both end up at the Catholic hospital. Kropp’s leg is amputated and Baumer gets well. They part from each other. Slowly one by one of the reminding falls. Detering flees; Muller is shot; and Kat dies in Baumer’s arms on their way to
safety. Their regiment begins to lose the war and things turns even more evil. Baumer, alone and tired of two years fighting, dies on October 1918, and for his death all was quiet in the western front.
Beyond, literally fighting the war, Baumer and the rest fought their minds, their hunger, their shattered dreams and shattered lives. They fought themselves. They fought the war.
The soldiers of the most animal nature fought their minds. They coped with the horror of war with a certain numbness to it. They shelled up the horror for that they knew that if entirely exposed it would cause them madness. “ ...he is curious in a way that I find stupid and distressing… I realize he does know that a man cannot talk of such things; I would do it willingly, but it is too dangerous for me to put these things into words. I am afraid they might then become gigantic and I be no longer able to master them.” (143) “...it has reinforced us with dullness, so that we do not go to pieces before the horror, which would overwhelm us if we had clear, conscious thought.” (231)
The hunger that was constant, more constant than that of a shell. With lack of nourishment, they appreciated food at it’s most. They were feeble because of so. For that a good ration of liver sausage and turnip bread was heavenly bliss. “we know that food is as important as ammunition and only for that reason must be brought up.”(95)
They coped with the fact that at nineteen their dreams were shattered. At nineteen, that age in which one starts to find love for life, but with the war it was all laid in the past. They are no longer the “Iron Youth” as their schoolmaster used to call them. “ We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The fist bomb, the first explosion,
burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.” (79)
The war shattered their lives. They
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Literature, Cinema of the United States, English-language films, Film, All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque, Quiet, Baumer, Western Front
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