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Through the Eyes of a German

All Quiet on the Western Front, by German writer Eriq Maria Remarque, explores the horrors of World War I through the eyes of a German solider named Paul. Remarque transforms this tale of a young recruit who is thrown head first into a raging war into a lesson about life. Remarque attempts to teach the reader to understand the horror of war, the value of friendship and the absurdity of traditional values.

Remarque includes discussions among Paul's group, and Paul's own thoughts while he observes Russian prisoners of war to show that no ordinary people benefit from a war. No matter what side a man is on, he is killing other men just like himself, people with whom he might even be friends at another time. But Remarque doesn't just tell us war is horrible: he vividly supports his point by assaulting all of the reader's senses. Remarque uses the sight of newly dead soldiers, unearthly screaming of the wounded horses, the smell of three layers of bodies to hammer home the atrocity of war. The crying of the horses is especially terrible. Horses are innocent bystanders, their bodies shining beautifully before being cut down by shellfire. To Paul, their dying cries represent all of nature accusing Man, the great destroyer.

Another message that Remarque attempts to convey to the reader is the value of enduring friendship. The theme of comradeship occurs often and gives the novel both lighthearted and sad moments. Away from battle, the soldiers formed deep bonds, showing not only the importance, but also the strength of the camaraderie between the men. Friendship emerges as an even more important theme at the front. Throughout the book, the reader sees men helping wounded comrades at great personal risk, often with tragic results. The reader can understand how hearing the voices of friends when one is lost or even just hearing their breathing during the night can keep a soldier going. The reader grieves with Paul and almost puts down the book when his dearest friend dies. Friendship was often the last thing keeping a soldier from giving up, and, when it was lost, life seemed to lose its meaning.

Remarque also preaches a rejection of traditional values. In his introductory note, Remarque said that his novel was "not an accusation". Rather, it is a rejection of traditional militaristic values of Western civilization. This denunciation is impressed on the reader through the...

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