“One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing; that to win a war is as disastrous to lose one!. . . We shall not survive war, but shall, as well as our adversaries, be destroyed by war.”-Agatha Christie, The Second War
The war described in All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, destroyed those who fought in it. It tells the story of Paul, a young German soldier. As Paul fights on the bloody front, he is numbed to the pain of those around him. War kills the dreams and spirits of the young men fighting in it by making them inured to death.
When death no longer holds any significance, man reverts back to living for the present. Paul accepts the grisly battles in stride with the brief respites a few miles away. He says: “We have lost all sense of other considerations, because they are artificial. Only the facts are real and important to us.” (21) Morals have no place on the battlefield. Only a sense of now and here is necessary, and physical needs. Food is a crucial need of the men’s-one which they go to great lengths to acquire. (Quote)
One of the most heartbreaking lessons learned was that death is the complete purpose of one’s life. Paul and his classmates learn this when they see their first deaths on the front lines. Paul describes this reality: “While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger… we were all at once terribly alone…” (13). Here, Paul discovers that death is the strongest force in his life; it is inescapable. The men learn that, ultimately, a man will protect his life over his duty. Where once they pictured war as noble and victorious, this chimera was shattered on the battlefield. The men have accepted the fact that fear of death is the driving force in one’s life. They resort to bloody measures to protect their own lives; Paul, while in the trenches, learns the secrets of protection: “The bayonet has practically lost its importance…. The sharpened spade is a more handy and many-sided weapon…” (104). These gri!
sly tools are now necessities. As death pervades their lives, these young men cannot plan their futures; as they move away from the front, the images still haunt their lives.
Without a solid groundwork before the war, it is impossible to recover after the war. The noxious front lines couldn’t nurture dreams too well. Paul reflects on his past life, and notes: “All the older men are linked up with their previous life… they have a background which is so strong that the war cannot obliterate it…” (20). Paul says here that these men ahd something else to live for; real, solid things which gave them a purpose to go on. For the young men, however, all most of them had were their ambitions and their dreams to sutain them; these had a weak hold on them, in the face of death. “…we stood on the threshold of life… te war swept us away… we have bocome a waste land…” (20). Paul describes thier loss. Without their dreams, who knows what these men can do after the war? They will be haunted by the trenches which stripped them of their dreams. After a man has looked death in the eye, it is difficult to return to life. Paul says, “we were eight!
een and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces…. we believe in such things no longer. We believe in war.” (88) The war is now the only driving force in these men’s lives; the rest was shattered with the front-line view of the world: shot or be shot, kill or be killed.
The lives of these young men were ruined by the war. As World War I recedes further and further into our memories, people forget the generation of men destroyed by war. Their shattered drems