All Quiet on the Western Front shows us these words are true. The novel describes the battles Paul Baumer must go through to keep his will to live and his sanity amidst the horrors of war that surround him. But in the end, the weapons win out.
The author, Erich Maria Remarque uses a writing style that describes Baumer’s battle by creating powerful mental images for the reader. Remarque’s words cause us to cheer for Paul while he tries to survive, even though Paul is on the side our history teachers tell us to shun. As I read, I could feel the inner turmoil that Paul went through by trying to choose to stay and fight rather than just give up and die.
In the beginning of the book, Paul started out thinking that he would be some type of a hero marching into battle. But when he first steps on to battlefield of the Great War he realized that he was just another speck who could die at any moment. This realization becomes clearer as the book progresses, until the bitter end. To help Paul try to mask all the horrors he goes through, he tries to find the beauty in the war. He creates friendships that he cherishes, until those friendships end with the thing that ends all, death.
For me, All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel about history. When I started reading, I didn’t understand what was going on. Once we started to study World War I in Social Studies, everything became much clearer. I realized this is not a book a person can just pick up and read. The reader will have a greater appreciation for the action in the novel if they know something about the history of World War I.
I also felt as though the book could have ended sooner. To me, the perfect place to end the book was when Paul was seriously injured and nearly dead. At that point it is clear the weaponry has won out over Paul’s will to live. Instead they fit him with a prosthetic limb, and the book continues for a couple of more chapters without really adding much to Paul’s story. Remarque does have a purpose, with some of the other main characters dying in these last chapters, but he could have done the same in earlier passages without the story dragging on.
My opinion of All Quiet on the Western Front is that it gives an inside look into the muddy trenches of World War I. I would say it’s a must read for those that have an understanding and appreciation for that period. For those that enjoy the history of war, I would definitely devote some time to it.