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Man Made Hell

Often touted as the classic war novel of all time, All is Quiet on the Western Front is a profound look at the nature of war and its effect on men. Yes, it is an anti-war novel, but that is not the theme I would like to explore in this review; rather, I would want to look at Remarques insight on both the dehumanizing effect of war on man, and surprisingly how war brings out the best men can offer. Do not get me wrong- Remarque does not make the case for war, but in the midst of the utter brutality of war when men are being dehumanized, our heroes find humanity.

The dehumanizing of the soldiers begins in boot camp. It is there that the process of dehumanization begins. Remarque writes: At first astonished, then embittered, and finally indifferent, we recognized that what a matter is not the mind, but the boot brush, not intelligence but the system, not freedom but drill. As Paul and his friends are being drawn into the maelstrom of war a place where reason and intellect give way to the brutal instincts of survival. Paul comments: We reach the zone where the front begins and become in the instant animals. We have become wild beasts- we defend ourselves against annihilation.

They kill not for country, nor for ideology, but for survival. Paul has nothing against his enemies- he realizes that they are men just as he. He kills to survive. He kills out of fear. Nowhere is this more dramatically demonstrated than when Paul kills the French solider in the shell hole in no-mans land where he took shelter. As the French soldier lies dying, Paul regrets what he has done; he promises the dying soldier that he will look up his family after the war. This is perhaps the most poignant moment in the novel. At this moment our protagonist Paul is remarkable like the Apostle Paul of the New Testament wishing himself accursed if only his country men could be saved. The difference between enemy and friend is the command they receive. He does not hate his enemy; it is self-preservation, nothing more. He kills so he may live.

What is astonishing is that when Paul has opportunity to free himself from this man-made hell, he chooses to return to the front. Why? He cannot abandon his friends. But in the end this...

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Category:   All Quiet on the Western Front

Length:   2 pages (452 words)

Views:   5886

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