Some authors use themes to show the reader some perspective. Erich Maria Remarques book “All Quiet on the Western Front” uses many themes but there are four main ones. Those four themes are the Lost Generation, futility of war, sound imagery, and the institutionalization or depersonalization of war. Some of these themes can be integrated together to make an alarming yet wonderful effect to draw the reader into the story of “All Quiet on the Western Front”.
One of the most prominent themes book is also the most saddening. That theme is the institutionalization or depersonalization of war. Remarque begins the story with Germanys soldiers fighting an
institutionalized war. Soldiers were trained to destroy and kill the enemy. By institutionalizing the war, it was made easier to kill someone just like you for no reason. But by depersonalizing the soldiers with their enemy, it left devastating effects on the mind and heart. Soldiers emotions were deadened and they became irrational. Throughout the story, Paul Baumer, the narrator does not talk about killing someone but as the story progresses, this changes. An example of Paul acting irrational because of the effect war had on him was when he was in the trenches and all of a sudden, a French soldier comes into the trench and Paul immediately stabs him without thinking about, for Paul is scared and emotionally scarred. After stabbing him, Paul leaves him alone to let him bleed to death. In that part of the story, Paul regains a little bit of his emotions because after he stabbed the man, he starts to feel very guilty about it. He tries to talk to the dead man and help the mans wounds. When Paul looks at the mans wallet, he finds some information about the soldier and realizes that the soldier was very much like himself, the only difference was
that they were fighting on different sides. Paul then starts to feel he killed himself and wishes no more of a part in the war.
The institutionalization of the war led to people thinking how futile this war really is. Because the war was so depersonalized for the soldiers of Germany, they start to feel this isnt their war to fight. Their loyalties are lost. What could have been solved between world leaders in a peace meeting had been made into an all out war, making millions of people lose their lives. Pauls comrades wonder what exactly are they fighting for. Their elders are telling them that they are fighting for their Fatherland but they still do not understand. Paul and his comrades come into a conclusion that the war was just a matter of one countryland offending another countryland. But yet they wonder, how can a mountain in France offend a mountain in Germany? The war was really just a matter of pride. Germanys high officials were just out for blood and did not exactly want peace. Germany just wanted to show it was better than any other country, even if it had to show it through a shedding of blood, namely a
The lost generation also coincides with the stitutionalization of war. The soldiers of Germany were called the “Iron Youth” at one point but they are really only a part of the Lost Generation. Germanys soldiers, who were mostly among the college years, had their childhood borne away from them. They had to grow up fast and become institutionalized. The Lost Generation in Germany thought it was futile to fight in such a war that had no point in it and in which Germany would dearly pay the price with bloodshed. They felt this wasnt their war to fight and participate in. They were just dragged into a war without their own consent just to fight for some guy who declared himself the Kaiser of Germany. That was how most
of Germanys soldiers felt about the war.
The last theme is sound imagery. Remarque uses sound imagery show how soldiers can lose their emotional connection to the world and how they can be emotionally and physically stressed just by the sounds of warfare. Remarque also uses sound to tell when the use of warfare weapons has subsided. Those sounds emotionally scarred many of the living lost generation for when everything was finally quiet, many lives were lost. Most likely after the war, whenever a surviving World War I soldier hear a sound that was something similar to the sounds he heard from the war, he might be afraid of it. Sometimes during the war, some soldiers didnt want the sounds of warfare to stop for when it did stop, it meant the people using those weapons making the sounds have either retreated or died,
most likely being the latter. If their were still some sounds of weapons of warfare, theres still some hope for people to live and escape the killing of their lives. Remarque shows in his story that sometimes sound was good or bad to hear in his story, and sound can heavily affect a person for life.
Surviving soldiers were scarred heavily by World War One many things, sound being one of the most influential. Many soldiers also experienced the other three themes mentioned in this essay. Remarques “All Quiet on the Western Front” vividly tells of part of his experience as a soldier in the war and the horrors of World War One. Remarque cleverly developed each of the themes at a steady pace so we can really get a feel of how the soldiers felt at some times.