The anti-war novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” byErich Maria Remarque is set in the first world war.
Remarque describes some ofthe agonising experiences of a young German soldier, Paul Baümer, who is forcedto enlist for the army with his friends by their school master, Kantorek. Hesoon changes from an innocent, vulnerable recruit to a broken, hardened veteran.Remarque utilises severaltechniques to effectively explore the theme of the horrors of war through thevulnerability of the main character. Paul’s description of the front makes us aware of how theprotagonist, who was at first an innocent, inexperienced soldier with romanticnotions of war, is vulnerable to damage of himself, through terrifying battlewhere he coldly states: For me the front is like a sinisterwhirlpool. Even when you are a long way from its centre, out in its calmwaters, you can still feel its suction pulling you towards it, slowly,inexorably, meeting little resistance. The use of this extended imageclearly illustrates how mentallyincapacitated Paul has become for the front has changed him to such an extentthat he cannot ever return to who he was before. This suggests that the horrorsof war have irreversibly traumatised him and this is further reinforcedwhen Paul returns home but cannot integrate into society again. He coldlybelieves, “I should never have come home on leave.
” Paul would rather return tothe horror of the front linesthan be safe at home where he can take pleasure in his former activities, likereading and writing, suggesting he is disconnected from his former self. Paul’svulnerability at war has caused him to become isolated and detached fromsociety, showing a loss of his former personality and character. Furthermore, at the front Paulhas the support of his fellow soldiers who can comprehend what he isexperiencing and what he feels but when he is home on leave, his motherquestions him on if he is frightened in the war, but he tries to soothe herfears and declares:Ah! Mother, Mother! How can it bethat I must part from you? Who else is there that has any claim on me but you?Here I sit and there you are lying; we have so much to say, and we shall neversay it.Paulyearns to be an innocent child once more, but the war has altered him, leavinghim pained but unable to share with his mother of the harrowing reality of war, all toprotect her and lessen her worrying about her son.
He has lost so much to the war; especiallythe close relationship he had with his mother, and his generation with him haslost their childhood, their aspirations in life and their belief in the war. Theprotagonist has lost his youth to the war, at such a young,vulnerable and impressionable age where he has experienced so little of life,meaning the horrors of war tohave an even greater toll on him.Paul is waiting for the fire from the enemy tocease so that his fellow soldiers can rescue him from the battle,terror-stricken he waits in a shell hole with the dying enemy soldier hestabbed: My hands are white at theknuckles, I clench them so tightly in my longing for the fire to cease so thatmy comrades may come Paul cannot control his fear, for it is so immensehe has succumbed to it completely.
Paul is vulnerable, alone in battle andcompletely dependent on his comrades to help him, whilst he must remain thereand suffer: This is the first time I havekilled with my hands, whom I can see at close hand… every gasp lays my heartbare. This dying man has time with him, he has an invisible dagger with whichhe stabs me: time and my thoughts Paul feels the emotional torment and pain ofstabbing the soldier, and ignores his war-like animal instincts needed forsurvival. He is still overcome with his emotions and thinks too greatly of thethoughts and feelings of the dying soldier, and how he himself killed this man.It is unbearable for him. Remarque shows Paul thinking about the humanity ofthe soldier which conveys the psychological impact that murdering a man andhaving to stay vulnerable in a place of fear has on Paul, for he is frightenedand overcome with guilt. The novel is unyieldingly moving towards its endwhen Remarque vaguely describes Paul’s gas injury, and is ambiguous about Paül’stwo weeks leave and his return to the front. Paul’s last words are: I am so alone Emphasising the effects of which the horrors of warhad on the soldiers, and how for three years of fighting Paül and most of his fellowveteran friends faced death through one of the most horrific terrifying evensin humanity where some were, “mad with pain” and others were, “shot down beforeanyone could go and fetch them.
” Paul’s final words describe him vulnerable tohis accelerating emotions of despair, fear and hopelessness leaving him isolatedenough to give up and loose his will to live. The bitter irony of this is how quietand calm it was the day of Paul’s death where, “the army report confined itselfto the single sentence: All quiet on the Western front.” The horrors of war destroyed Paül Baumer leavinghim vulnerable and isolated. Through Paül’s extreme hardships, Remarque describedthe horrors of war. Through Paül’s death the devastating events of the bookcame to an end.
This tied together the main character’s isolation, terror andvulnerability in the novel “All Quiet on the Western front.”