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"THE CAUSE OF DEATH"(271)
Erich Maria Remarque\'s ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
is a very interesting and true-to-heart novel based in the first world war
where many men and women died because someone called them the
enemy. The main character is Paul Baumer, a nineteen year old man who
is swept into the war, along with his friends, not one day before he is out
of school. They are sent to the front to "protect the fatherland" or
Germany as it is called. Paul and his friends go from this idealistic
opinion to disillusionment throughout the book as they discover the truth
that the enemy is just like them, and Paul\'s friends start being killed one-
by-one. This novel is a gripping account of how war is most of the time
bloody and horrid. The few who came out of this war were not the people
they were when they left. They become pale and emotionless, without
feeling or thought. Some killed themselves, they had experienced ultimate
horror, the horror of war. The novel starts two years after Paul and his
friends first reached the front and then goes back and forth between
present and past. The main topics throughout the book is the change from
idealism to disillusionment, the loss of Paul\'s friends, and especially the
loss of Paul\'s innocence.
The change from idealism to disillusionment is really the driving
force behind the novel. From young school boys, listening to their
schoolmaster asking "Won\'t you join up comrades?"(11) to "weary,
broken"(294) men, idealism and disillusionment play a major role on
Paul\'s decisions and thoughts. For example, on the second page of the
novel, Paul says, "It would not be such a bad war if only one could get a
little more sleep." (2) Later in the book, a disillusioned Paul says of the
same war, "I see how people are set against one another and in silence,
unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another."(263)
Even though he has been in the war two years, the first quote shows how
Paul\'s idealism is still strong. In the second quote, Paul sees the war for
what it truly is, a waste of time, food, money, and young men. The scar of
war left a deep gash in the mind of Paul Baumer.
The loss of Paul\'s friends was a factor that increased Paul\'s change
from a young, proud idealist to a weary, disillusioned soldier. When
Kemmerich, Paul\'s friend, died, Paul felt happy to be alive and senses
everything "as never before."(30) As more of Paul\'s friends die, he
realizes just how bad this war is . Not did his friends brings this to his
eyes, but other people he sees, the new soldier who loses his mind, the
lance-corporal who lost his head, and the dying French soldier whom Paul
saw as a person, not a monster as the Kaiser would have him believe.
These people and many others were pivotal in the breaking down of Paul\'s
idealism. However, this is not a very positive way to find reality as people
had to die to show Paul how the war really is and how it effects him and
what friends he has.
The second main topic is the loss of Paul\'s innocence. Paul is a
smart man before the war, who enjoys reading and drawing. He had a
bright future ahead, but the war killed his future. Every man he knew
wanted him to join the war, defend Germany, and come back a hero.
When he heard the first shell, saw the first man die, killed his one of the
enemy, he was never the same Paul again. The reader sees this when Paul
goes home on fourteen day leave. He wants to "think (himself) back into
that time,"(171) when he felt the exhilaration of picking up books and
falling into an abyss of wild illusion. But when he looks at his books, his
bed, his old clothes, and his drawings, he experiences "a terrible feeling of
foreigness."(172) In the end, as Paul stands up in the trench, right before
his death, he combines the young, idealistic Paul, and the ruthless, weary
soldier Paul. He has a single unity in both, a unity that gives him the
reality that war
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