All Quiet on the Western Front
While lying in dark, muddy, lice infested trench, bullets, grenades, bombs and shrapnel fly over your head, intended to hit you. Risking your life is a daily ritual, along with trying to kill the enemy. Your diet consists of whatever you can get your hands on, and your bed is a metal net covered in hay. Doesn’t sound like the kind of life you would like to live? Well, so is the life of a German soldier during World War I. In All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, translated from German by A.W. Wheen, the life of a soldier is so vividly described that this book has been called, “The greatest war novel of all time.” In it’s 296 pages published by Ballantine Books in New York, Erich Maria Remarque, he himself a veteran of World War I, gives a very accurate first-hand description of what war is really like. Even though this book is fiction, it is delivered in such a realistic manner that the reader feels like they are actually on the front lines, fighting the war with the other soldiers. Erich being a veteran of the war could definitely have influenced his feelings when writing this novel, and it is pretty obvious he thinks war is a horrible thing from reading this work.
From start to finish, All Quiet on the Western Front covers about four years. From the beginning, when a group of idealistic classmates and friends join the German war movement, to the end, when the last surviving member of the group, the narrator Paul Baumer, dies, the book is told mostly in chronological order, except for a few times when Paul thinks back to his school days with his fellow soldiers. The story is about the trials and tribulations during World War I of a nineteen-year-old soldier named Paul Baumer. Their schoolmaster named Mr. Kantorek pressured him and his friends into joining the army. He made them feel like they were cowards if they did not join up and become what he called the “Iron Youth.” Paul and his group of soldier friends went daily to the front lines of the battle, slowly dying one by one. From the intimate moments of friendship when Paul and his best friend Stanislaus Katczinsky, otherwise known as Kat, shared a stolen goose in the fire light to the moments of shear terror like when Paul was forced to kill a with his bare hands a Frenchman named G?rard Duval, this book told the truth about war.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a hugely important book for many reasons. Besides the fact that it is very well written, it retells probably the most destructive war of our history from a viewpoint that is not usually available, the viewpoint of a German soldier. Usually, stories are told from the viewpoint of the so-called “good guy,” but because we get this story from the viewpoint of the “enemy” we can realize that war is just as bad for the other side as it is for our side. This book shows that in either case, war is hell. Also the novel does not pull any punches in regards to detail or any of the gruesome aspects of war. The book tells it like it is, from the delousing the soldiers would undergo, to the horrible wounds and deaths soldiers would suffer, to the inhumane way new soldiers were treated in training camp. This book is also an important literary work because it raises a very important question: “Why does there have to be war?” Paul Baumer realizes that during his time of service he has lost whatever it was that was different about him at home, whether it was innocence or immaturity. He also realizes that war has ruined him forever because he cannot go back to normal life after seeing the things he has seen and experien