All Quiet on the Western Front is the novel written by Erich Maria Remarque (real name Erich Paul Remark). The book was written in Berlin in late 1920s, however, the first publication the world saw only in 1928. Since then it was translated in many languages as well as republished all over the world. Nowadays the book has the status of best-seller “In its first years German readers alone bought more than one million copies of All Quiet; and the British, French, and Americans bought thousands more. The novel also attained success as an American motion picture” (Kam, Spring, 4). The purpose of the novel was to tell the “inside story” of events from a different perspective, as the author also took part in the war. Remarque wanted to make his own contribution to the history, writing on the topic that was heard and seen everywhere – war, and again war.
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All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story about a group of young boys (Paul, Muller, Tjaden, Albert and others), who took part in World War I. Paul Baumer is the narrator of the story, who, along with his friends, believed in the highest idea of patriotism and political propaganda. Their school teachers enforced their feelings by saying “Won’t you join up, Comrades?” Consequently, they enlisted as volunteers in the war actions, wanting to somehow help their country. However, after the first weeks at the front they were shocked to know that antihuman truth, when their illusions transformed into the fallacy. The author writes short descriptions about characters, stating that every soldier is an individual. Day by day soldiers face injustice, death, disillusionment and see how their friends are dying. The story finishes with the death of the narrator – Paul Baumer, whose face “had an expression of calm, as though almost glad that the end had come”.
The story is told in the first person, there is no division into days, however, one may get the feeling that he or she is reading a diary. Erich Maria Remarque can be compared with a good journalist, who does not describe a wall in three pages, but gives all the necessary short details to visualize the whole picture. Interesting fact is that style of the novel has its extraordinary features, such as the absence of far-fetched ideas; the major characteristic is the description of real life, not imagined or “decorated” with literary elements. Moreover, there are no too emotional words in any description, even when author depicts someone’s death and how people perceive it. Remarque just continues telling the story not concentrating on one particular event throughout the whole book.
While reading a novel, one may define the thesis of the novel, which is a little bit different from the topic of the book. The last one is not hard to define - war and innocent people involved in it, whereas the thesis of the book is different - consequences from the war and “lost generation”. This term is usually associated with young people, who have just finished school. Paul Baumer and his friends formed the group of “lost generation”, who were young and persuaded to fight for their country and the idea of a bright future. “Lost” means that these people were too young to start killing others; they did not see anything in their lives and are too vulnerable to mentally recuperate after the war. Remarque wanted to show that “lost generation” consisting of young German soldiers, who were completely destroyed by the war, even if they were not. Throughout the whole text the reader can see the despair of young boys, who have not even thought that their life would be like that. The quotation from the book by Paul proves it “We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial – I believe we are lost”.
After reading a novel, the one of the most stunning lines may be in the beginning of the book, where the narrator tells that nobody wants to join the Army, especially when he mentions “at that time even one’s parents were ready with the word “coward”. These words sound so astonishing and unbelievable, that you need some time to think over before reading further. At all times parents aim was to protect their children from danger. Every parent wants to know that his or her child is safe, which totally contradicts the novel. During war there were no moral principles, even the institution of family had its “cracks”. Many people did not care of anything; they just believed in propaganda and acted in accordance with their claims. Erich Maria Remarque purpose was to depict that tough time with harsh surrounding, who did not even felt sorry for their children.
All Quiet on the Western Front is the story about soldiers who lost their ordinary lives and made their step into mud and blood of war. This is the story about boys who wanted to explore the infinite world, but faced the death of their peers and enemies, whom they even no longer perceived as enemies. Humanism, deep psychological experience which caused the outbreak of philosophical views on war and life in general – these are the features, which make this book popular and surprise readers after so many years.
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