The novel â€œAll Quiet on the Western Frontâ€ is without a question rightfully considered to be one of Erich Maria Remarque’s best works. The main theme of the book was outlined by the author at the beginning of the story: â€œThis book is to be neither accusation nor a confession, and at last of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure for those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the warâ€ (Remarque 5). The main goal of the writer was to portray the cruel unfairness of the war. Remarque in the novel aims to describe the generation that is deprived of dreams and plans; that has no future and no present â€“ the evidence of the war are the only things it owns.
The central character of the novel is a nineteen year old German soldier, who together with his school friends, joined the army as his own choice. The young boys made such a decision under the influence of their teacher Kantorek, who persuades them by making powerful patriotic speeches promoting the German army. However, it took just one, his first battle, to destroy boy’s romantic view about war, the cruelty of which has shocked young soldiers.
As the story continues the reader gets to meet with the main character. During the time he spent at war Paul experienced huge changes. He used to write poems. However after his joining the Western front he gave up the habit. He has become a hopeless and desperate person. His family was replaced by soldiers and harsh commander Himmelstoss, who has never missed the opportunity to scoff his subordinates. By introducing such a character into the story, Remarque reflected on the personal changes which the power of authority brings out. The next episode provesÂ the words mentioned above. When it becomes known that soldiers Tjaden and Kindervater are bedwetters, Himmelstoss makes them to sleep in one bed, one above the other. Moreover, the commander terrorizes the boys by continuous drills and rude behavior. However, soon justice is to some extent restored and Himmelstoss is sent to the front himself, as a punishment for torturing his recruits. Such experience has influenced the commander and he to some extent changes his attitude towards soldiers and begins to show more respect for them.
In addition to the Himmelstoss’ bullying, the sanitary conditions at the front were awful. The lice, which were everywhere and the small amount of food, clearly worsened the existing situation. All this conditions lead to the continuous physical and mental sufferings of Pete and his friends. They stopped seeing any sense in future life, the war has ruined all their dreams and hopes for happy life. In one of the conversations which took place in the circle of close friends, they had all agreed with the fact that even those middle-aged soldiers, who joined the front, have been happier that they were. The memories, recollections of happy warless life, their families and children made the lives of the senior soldiers more valuable and worthy. This kind of the author’s intervention, expressed from the points of view of the characters, happens quite often in the novel. These conversations serve as a smooth transition from the cruel violent battlefield to sad inner thoughts of the heroes. Moreover, the author expresses the concern of the war’s uselessness â€“ for the whole nation it is only the source of murders and continuous sufferings. However, it may be rather beneficial for the rulers, who want to grab the slice of history in such a way. The episode when Paul visits the prison for the captured Russian soldiers proves the idea. Paul cannot understand why he has to hate people whom he liked so much. Russians were like brothers to each other and he honored this friendship and mutual respect. In order to help the â€œenemyâ€, Paul shares his cigarettes and cakes that his mother has cooked. These actions emphasize the uselessness of the war and its goal â€“ to establish hostility between people who are more likely to be friends than enemies.
The story finishes with the words â€œAll Quiet on the Western Frontâ€ (Remarque 306), which are used to describe the war situation happening on the day of the protagonist’s life. Because of the war Paul’s life was everything but quite and the words, which also form the title of the novel, emphasize the cruel reality the main character dealt with. The tragic irony is that Paul dies on the day when eventually things become quiet.
Remarque’s brilliant talent is in his ability to portray reality which he has faced himself and transforming it into the reality of those who are reading the story. When a reader gets acquainted with the books written by Remarque, he/she completely focuses on the main topics, ideas, themes through which the author intended to illustrate in his novels. Such a union of the reader and the writer is reached by clear and accurate descriptions, striking conversations and reasonable conclusions. It is not the writer himself who is present on the pages; his recollections and trials are the key factors in composing a convincing story. The author succeeds in recreating the realistic picture of the times he is writing about. That is why the books written by Remarque are always honest and sincere; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to be opposed to his views or doubt his words.