Wednesday, January 02, 2013

All Quiet on the Western Front

Near the end of the novel, the narrator questions why they are fighting the war. He has no beef with the other side. He comes to the conclusion that the Kaiser is fighting it because all leaders have to have a big war under their belts to make it in to the history books.

This realization was a far cry from his initial enthusiasm. On the outset, he was driven by patriotic zeal to go join the army. Once there, he realized it was not all it was cracked up to be. (This reminds me of people who have been eager to enlist in the US military to "fight the terrorists", but then find that things are not so glorious [or even as cut and dry] once they get there.)

The novel provides plenty of portrayal of the fighting and the dangers in trench warfare. There is no glory in the war being fought. There are some minor adventures (like sneaking across a river or pulling pranks on a mean leader), however in these have a somewhat depressing air in the context of the war.

The trip home expresses some of this contrast. The people at home are eager to hear the adventures at the front. They also want to ensure people are properly cared for, even as they die. The soldier, however, does not think of them as "adventures", and has grown to have a 'distant' view of people. (At times he feels "attached" to a person, but then can brush it aside.)

War in this novel is depressingly hard work that abuses both physically and mentally. It is no wonder it was banned by Nazi Germany.

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