All Quiet on the Western Front Themes
How it works
All Quiet on the Western Front is about a young nineteen year old man who fights in the Germany army on the French front in World War I. The main character, Paul and many of his friends from school joined the army voluntarily after listening to the speeches from their teacher, Kantorek. In All Quiet on the Western Front there are many themes throughout the book that show how war life is. Some of the themes are about the effect of war on a soldier, identity, and how they deal with their dreams, hopes, and plans.
One of the themes is about the effects of war on a person. These men who are fighting are always in constant danger, and could be blown to pieces at any moment. The threat of dying makes the soldiers cope with primal, instinctive fear during every moment. Also, the soldiers are forced to live in filthy conditions full of rats, decaying corpses and infested with lice. They frequently go without food and sleep, no enough clothing, or very little medical care. They are forced to deal with frequent deaths of their friends often very close to them and in a very violent manner. “The war has ruined us for everything.”(Remarque 87).
They only way for the soldiers to survive is to disconnect from their feelings, suppressing their emotions and accepting the conditions of their lives. Another one of the themes is about identity and finding who they are. The main character of the book, Paul discovers his own identity as he grows from a naive youth to a front line fighter. He defines himself in many ways, mostly relative to other people and ideas. He gets repulsed by men with no identity, like those who define themselves by the uniform they wear rather than the content of their character. “We have lost all sense of other considerations, because they are artificial. Only the facts are real and important to us. And good boots are hard to come by.” (Remarque 21). The characters have a hard time finding their identity because of the war, he doesn’t know if he will have a future or continue school. He doesn’t even know if he will survive.
Although at the end of the book he had truly given up hope for finding his identity because he continues narrating at the very end. This shows that if he did find his identity even in the end he would have stopped narrating, but he continues. World War I has changed the way they look at things and that changes their perspective. The last theme in the book All Quiet on the Western Front is how they deal with their hopes, dreams, and plans. The main character, Paul gets exposed to war at a young age and endures months upon months of warfare. “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.” (Remarque 263). Conditions are uncomfortable and their is mass death frequently. This violence shapes the soldiers concept of life and dreams. Before the war Paul had dreams to graduate school and go to college and start a life but when he joined the war his dreams weren’t a reality any more because every day he was risking his life and he was unsure of weather he would live or die. His dreams are tied at home which he may never see again. Once he is in the war he realizes that now his dreams are to just stay alive.
All these themes in the book show how fighting in the war can change your perspective on many things and change your physical emotions. The effects of war on a soldier, identity, and hopes, dreams, and plans show how horrible war can be.