All throughout time, since man was first given the ability to write, countless novels have been written on almost every subject conceivable. When it comes to literature on history, an infinite number of subtopics become available. Some examples include, war, peace, types of governments, autobiographical accounts of world heroes, etc. Even these few subtopics can be broken down much further. The same idea that links all of these pieces of literature together is the concept that everything is based upon a single question. All books strive to consider a unique question, define it, and then finally, come to some sort of conclusion based on it. That was the goal of this book report; to decide what the main question was, to explain it and then finally to reveal its answer and greater significance.
For my project I decided to read "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque. Arguably the greatest war novel of all time, Remarque takes the reader on a journey as we view life through the eyes of a young man, twenty years of age. This boy, Paul Baumer, enlists in the German army alongside several of his close friends, during World War I. At first, they are eager, but as the novel progresses the truth about war settles in. Baumer begins questioning the opinions of many, as he encounters horror day in and day out in the trenches. Over the years of battle, which pass by extremely sluggish, Baumer maintains one ideal: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly puts young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other. That is the question this novel is asking. Why is such a dehumanizing event such as war necessary?
[...] That same ruler who sits on his throne as the shopkeepers, farmers, and young boys grasp on to their lives, hiding in the trenches. The people who suffer are the ones who do not want to fight in the first place, but instead are obliged to. Remarque asks if this is fair. Who is actually the victor when it comes to war? Who profits the most? When it comes down to it, the answer is nobody. It is true that maybe the winning general will gain some sort of fame and acknowledgement, but to what extent. [...]
[...] Dwelling on the negative aspects of war, Remarque seems to answer his initial question very clearly, but for people who remain skeptical, these grotesque details aren't enough, so the rest of the plot helps to build even more evidence supporting Remarque's point of view, that the only purpose war serves is to dehumanize those who partake in it. The next part of the book is one that really touches the reader on a more personal note. Paul is given time off, and is allowed to go home to be with his family. [...]
[...] And what shall come out of (263- 264) The story ends as Paul returns to the front alone, because his seven original close friends have all died. There is talk of peace in the air, as an armistice is said to have been close in sight. Rather then being happy, Paul again questions what life will be like after the war. He no longer has a home that is familiar to him; he no longer has goals or any direction in life. [...]
[...] It is clear that Remarque is marking this as the beginning of the soldier's journey on his quest to answer the question the book is asking. Paul begins the war as naïve as the reader does; not knowing the extreme inhumanity war comes along with. The novel continues onward, as does the downward sloping spiral. From the onset of the novel, Paul expresses the concept of his generations “loss of innocence.” From reading, it makes a great deal of sense. [...]
[...] Remarque tried to answer the question, if all war does is dehumanize those who fight in it, is it necessary, and he did in some regard. The answer is no. We watched Paul changes his opinion on war over the years, and through this first hand account, we too are forced to ponder as to whether or not war is necessary. Remarque does a brilliant job in raising his main question and setting it up for the answer that he wanted his reader to get out of this tale. [...]
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