All Quiet on the Western Front

Dehumanisation, Death, Destruction

Remarque’s account of the horrors of the Western Front in World War I, from the common German soldier’s perspective, is a poignant reminder of the horrors of war. Dehumanisation, death and destruction are the key themes are relayed through the eyes of Paul Baumer, a soldier in the Great War of 1914-1918 and the narrator of All Quiet on the Western Front.

Dehumanisation is a key central theme in the novel, as the characters are transformed from young men into old men, from idealistic, patriotic youth into a coarse, violent group of state murderers who kill others mercilessly for their own survival, and, ultimately, from men with hopes and dreams to men with nothing to look forward to. Indeed, the balmy and gentle influences from parents, teachers and “the whole course of civilisation from Plato to Goethe” (16) are brushed away and hardcore, militaristic values of “saluting, eyes front… bloody-mindedness” (16) are instilled into the young men, who are sent off to confront the stark realities of war after their short training.

There is therefore a disjuncture between how the soldiers view the war and how those who do not participate in it view it. Kantorek, the schoolteacher, loudly extols the virtue of patriotism but does not see...

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