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Erich Maria Remarque's book "All Quiet on the Western Front" centers on the perspectives of a group of German soldiers on the Western Front. Remarque, on the other hand, does not seek to glorify the soldiers' valor on the frontline. Rather, he wants to show the horror of war as it is. Remarque draws a realistic image of how the ordinary soldier is affected by war. The aim of this paper is to examine the writer's use of the expression "..become on the instant human animals." Remarque, Erich Maria, and A. W. Wheen (Remarque, Erich Maria, and A. Wheen, 56).
In doing so, the main character, Paul Baumer, tracks the transition that occurs on the battlefield. He compares the primal desire to seek shelter on the ground to that of an animal. This animal, however, is a hunted animal rather than the hunter. The soldiers’ instincts have been reduced to the most primal; the need to survive regardless of the circumstances. Paul says, “There is suddenly in our veins, in our hands, in our eyes, a tense waiting, a watching, a heightening alertness” (Remarque, Erich Maria, and A. W Wheen). The use of the phrase in the book is, in essence, a powerful metaphor which portrays a soldier’s state of mind while at the war front. The soldier’s feelings of love, remorse or nostalgia are pushed aside in a primal bid for survival. Paul even says that should a soldier’s father impede his quest for survival, a bomb would be flung at him. In essence, Remarque asserts that war strips one of all that is human. Additionally, Paul equates the movement of the soldiers to that of a cat when he says “… crouching like cats, we run on” (Remarque, Erich Maria and A. W Wheen, 57) this heightens the purpose of the soldier’s movement on the battlefield; the primal quest to survival.
The elaborate use of metaphors equating soldiers to animals foregrounds a theme which is prevalent across the book. This is the effects of war, particularly on the soldiers at the war front. The soldiers are wounded spiritually, physically and intellectually by the vagaries of war. In the beginning, Paul informs the reader that he wrote poetry and short stories. The war, however, erodes any passion the character had for writing. As the book progresses, we see a resigned Paul Baumer who has completely surrendered to fate because he feels he does not have much to live for. In other words, the war is quick to erode all that is human in a soldier. Paul supports this assertion when he says that the soldiers have lost all feelings for one another.
In conclusion, Remarque’s use of the metaphor is quite profound in showing what war does to a soldier. The soldier is reduced to nothing but an animal devoid of any human feelings, an animal bent on killing, bent on survival. In his opening remarks, Remarque sagely says the book “will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war” (Remarque, Erich Maria, and A. W Wheen). This remark accurately sums up the general message in the book.
Remarque, Erich Maria and A. W Wheen. All Quiet On The Western Front. 1st ed.,.
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