All Quiet on the Western Front' Comparison Essay

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A comparative analysis of Erich Maria Remarque’s “All Quiet on the Western Front (Western Front),1928” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath (Grapes), 1939” provokes the audience to reconsider their understanding of morality. Set during WWI, Remarque explores the demoralizing corruptions of war by mirroring his personal experiences at the Western Front. Steinbeck’s Grapes, set during the 1930 American Dust Bowl, is constructed through the Joad family’s tribulations, considering their dehumanization in a period of societal crisis. Despite the difference in context, both texts thoroughly explore means of combating dehumanization in times of disaster, with companionship presenting at the crux of survival. In doing so, both composers explore society’s reliance on companionship as a coping mechanism against the exploitation of an inferior class through stratified power.

Both Western Front and Grapes explore the impacts of dehumanization of an inferior class in the presence of corruptive exploitation. In Western Front, Remarque establishes his opposition to war through the first-person perspective of the protagonist, reflecting on his own experiences in WWI. His encounters mirror this stance in the novel, essentially recounting the horrific reality behind the glorified war heroes. The use of emotive language in Chapter 1 “…the first death we saw shattered this belief...” provokes the audience to empathize with the cruelty against Paul, augmenting the psychological impacts of corruption. As he later weeps “…you are poor devils like us…you could be my brother” after killing his enemy, the psychological trauma as a result of corrupt propaganda is exhibited through Paul’s metaphorical outburst. His realization contrasts the prior romanticized conceptions of war, conveying a sense of injustice and betrayal, thereby engendering the hypocritical corruption by superiors in a stratified society. By conveying a text-to-world connection, this corruption prompts a deeper understanding of historical events by readers. Subsequently, Remarque engages readers to gain a deeper insight into their judgment of changing human ethics. The differing context of Steinbeck’s Grapes results in the same theme of dehumanization by corruptive power being conveyed through dialogue instead. A realistic portrayal of the Oklahomans through their southern dialect provides authenticity to the characters, which consequently allows the audience to sympathize with the characters’ hardships. When Ma Joad recounts “...them people…Made me feel ashamed…An’ now I ain’t ashamed…Why, I feel like people again” in chapter 22, she creates a comparison between two separate times, similar to Western Front, though contrastingly characterizing the past with the dehumanizing encounters of hardship. Referring to the disingenuous landowners as “the people” and relating it to her shameful transformation, Ma Joad emotionally deliberates the exploitation of her people as inferiors, which also evokes empathy from the audience. This is furthered through a biblical connotation in Chapter 2 “crushed its hard skull-like head” where man's violence toward insects parallels the landowners’ treatment towards farmers. Both Western Front and Grapes explore the dehumanizing impacts of corrupt stratification in separate periods of disaster through a differing sense of intimacy to emphasize the composer’s values regarding the actuality of turpitude.

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The similar ruinous contexts of both Western Front and Grapes are continuously emphasized through threats against the protagonists’ survival. Through the metaphor of the protagonist as “human animals,” in Western Front, Remarque illustrates the psychological transformation Paul and his comrades undergo to survive the front. Their transformation into beasts implies the sacrifice of thought and human qualities, instead relying wholly on animalistic instincts. This is evident through Paul’s dialogue, “You were only an idea to me before, an abstraction” as he weeps for an enemy he killed. Remarque’s metaphor urges the audience to comprehend the psychological devastation that wreaks on a soldier’s humanity, acknowledging the disintegration of humanity as a mechanism of survival, which is further shown through the repetition of “Meyer is dead, Max is dead, Beyer is dead...” The evident suppression of human emotions as a necessity of survival confronts the audience as ethical beings, challenging their perception of emotional adversity in different contexts. Steinbeck’s Grapes, in contrast, challenges the reader to reconsider their judgment of what comprises adversity. The composer develops this through the biblical allusion “to put something of Manself, and to Manself take back something of the wall...For man...walks up the stairs of his concepts.” The highly stylized linguistics, grandeur, and repetition in the biblical allusion appeals to the morality of the audience. While the language illustrates its significance, the content is evocative of the biblical parable: man builds himself through toil. Steinbeck’s commentary on coping with struggle through a realistic recounting of survival based on the acknowledgment of dignity greatly influences the audience’s perception of coping mechanisms. This philosophy of survival greatly clashes with the morals of the Western Front, which Remarque explains as a transforming agent. However, the contrasting approaches in representing struggle enable each text to challenge various morals.

The significance of companionship in portraying human connections during disaster is engendered in both Western Front and Grapes. By delving into the featured bond of mankind in a time of war, Remarque didactically exhibits the interdependence of soldiers, prompting the audience toward an understanding of basic morals. The accumulative imagery in Chapter 5, “two men, two-minute sparks of life; outside…the circle of death. We sit on the edge of it crouching in danger…” emphasizes Paul and his comrade’s irrefutable relationship; their bond is idolized by Paul, signifying the criticality of intimacy. This is emphasized through a passionate tone and dialogue as Paul utters “more complete communion with one another than even lovers have,” analogizing their comradeship to the acknowledged intimacy of lovers. The comparison allows the audience to comprehend the consequential unity from desperation, injecting a sense of poignant pathos. Remarque imparts a sense of reverence regarding camaraderie by eulogizing this solidarity during hardship. The intimate dialogue used to represent companionship in the Western Front heavily contradicts the broad, impersonal mechanism in Grapes. By interspersing intercalary chapters through his narrative, Steinbeck communicates various interpretations in his general descriptions of situations in Grapes. The impartiality of this abstraction reinstates a bond between audience and text, which - though dissimilarly from the Western Front - spurs a sense of connection between the fictional and real world. The parallel structure of “...twenty families became one family...loss of home became one loss” in chapter 17 exemplifies an utter allegiance, prompting the audience to empathize with the richness of companionship. It represents the importance of coalescing between communities to cope with the shared hardships - a concept mirrored in reality. Further on, the aphorism, “children were the children of all” emphasizes the sanctity of communing generations through toil, by connoting the biblical allusion in its prose. The aphorism imparts this fellowship as a moral, compelling the audience to reconsider its significance. The mechanism of companionship throughout disaster is represented contrastingly by Western Front and Grapes, regarding interpersonal and intertextual connections with the audience, hence explicating morals

As fiction mirrors reality, it has the power to challenge the reader as a moral being. Western Front and Grapes explore the dehumanization in separate periods of adversity. Through differing techniques, they exemplify the overarching companionship developed in each narrative as a mechanism of survival. The composers consequently explore society’s reliance on companionship as a coping mechanism against the exploitation of an inferior class through stratified power to challenge the audience as moral beings.

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All Quiet on the Western Front’ Comparison Essay. (2024, February 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
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