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Hospital as a Symbol of War in All Quiet on the Western Front

The Battle Between Hope and Hopelessness

While most war novels before All Quiet on the Western Front tended to idealize war, making it seem like an honorable and glorified adventure, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, discredits these conceptions by bringing the reader through a first person account of what war really is like. The novel is set during World War I, amid the horrific military innovations such as chemical gas, tanks, and machine guns that made killing much easier and remote. Remarque shows how all of these horrors not only have an effect on a soldier’s physical well being, but also take a large toll on a soldier’s psychological state too. Remarque writes that “A hospital alone shows what war is” in order to show how the hospital in chapter ten serves as a microcosm of war (263). Along with the apparent suffering that “shows” what war is really like, there are much more subtle yet distinct symbols in the hospital. These symbols illustrate the dreadful feeling of hopelessness that the soldiers so often feel when fighting on the battlefront as well as the brief, yet beautiful feeling of optimism that the soldiers so rarely feel when fighting such an emotionally devastating war. There is the self-explanatory, “dying room,” which symbolizes death and hopelessness. Then there is the cheerful Sister Libertine that symbolizes the joys of life and optimism. Instead of these symbols portraying the war as solely a physical battle, they represent the psychological battle between despair and hope.

The curtaining sense of hopelessness and death that sweeps across all of the soldiers during war is symbolized profoundly by the “dying room.” The “dying room,” whose function is spelled out in the name, is notorious for its hopelessness and definite fatality. Everyone in the hospital knows that if “they have put him in the dying room,” then “[they] shan’t see him again” (256). This shows how for the soldiers in the war, the chance of getting through the war seems nonexistent. Remarque proves this by exterminating every main character by the end of the novel. In the dying room, there are two beds, which represent the Allies and the Germans. For both armies, whether it is the Germans who are fighting for the greed of one man or the allies, who are fighting to protect their countries, war holds no future for the soldiers. Peter,...

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Category:   All Quiet on the Western Front

Length:   5 pages (1,075 words)

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