All Quiet on the Western Front' Friendship Essay

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Context has been used throughout time and history and has influenced texts. A writer can be influenced by context and the context in how and when it the novel was produced. Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quite on the Western Front written in 1928, is a story of a young 19-year-old boy named Paul Bäumer, who was a German soldier that fought during World War 1, on the Western Front. Although the book is fictional it is assumed that some of the experiences from Paul are also what Remarque experienced, because Remarque was a soldier during World War 1. The constant fear and trepidation the men faced daily gave terrifying and surreal accounts of the war. The novel All Quite on the Western Front gives a detailed understanding of what war was like on the other side of the fight, we can use texts as examples of how during any type of conflict/war both sides experience the same horrors no matter the time or the participants.

The Iliad is a great example of how similar Remarque novel and Greek war literature are and how we can use knowledge of Greek war literature to better understand what it was like for the men at the front line in All Quite on the Western Front. The Iliad is a Greek poem written by Homer from 800 to 700 B.C. It tells the story of a great hero Achilles who is the bravest fight of the army of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. The story starts in the middle of the Trojan War when the commander of the Greek army steals away a young girl, Achilles being the hero of the story tells him to not be greedy and give her back, then out of spite Agamemnon gives the girl back but steals away Achilles future wife. By doing this to Achilles, Agamemnon loses his greatest fighter. Achilles' best friend Patroclus begs him to rejoin the war to help the Greeks win, but again Achilles refuses. Patroclus continues to go to war and is killed by Hector, the great warrior of the Troys. Once Achilles hears word of this he goes back to the war and kills Hector in a big battle. Then when fighting outside of the walls of Troy, Paris hits Achilles in his only weak spot, which kills Achilles and the war continues.

Just like All Quite on the Western Front, the stories are based on the battlefield, this is very common in war literature, as the stories are about the horrific occurrences on the battlefield. Paul is constantly seen on the battlefield seeing many horrific things, “At the sound of the first droning of the shells we rush back, in one part of our being, a thousand years. By the animal instinct that is awakened in us we are led and protected”, this is just one example of what the character Paul experiences.

Paul and Achilles are the protagonists of their stories, both men have shown the reader their vulnerabilities, for Achilles, it’s the story of his mother dipping him in the river but holding him by his ankle, therefore, making that the only place he is vulnerable, whereas for Paul he is vulnerable because he is an inexperienced 19-year-old who feels lost and has nothing to go home to after the war. When Paris shoots the arrow and the god Apollo sees it as the only opportunity to kill Achilles re-routes the arrow to Achilles' weak spot and is killed, the reader feels a sense of loss as well as relief for Achilles who was fighting in a war to avenge his only to avenge his friend, at the end of All Quite on the Western Front we also feel this sense of relief that the character doesn’t have to keep fighting in a war he doesn’t believe in.

Both stories show comradeship, for Paul it’s his friends from school and the men he meets on the front line, whereas for Achilles it’s his old friend whom he has known since he was little. Both the stories show how to get through the war the main character needs their friends, it’s their last grip on reality. Achilles' only real grasp on wanting to live was his mother, future wife, and best friend, and continuously those things are being taken away from him, just like the soldiers in the First World War in Remarque's novel. Paul's friends are taken away from him one by one, each leaving its damage. When his closest friend Kat dies, the story doesn’t get any better for Paul.

“We sit opposite one another, Kat and I, two soldiers in shabby coats, cooking a goose in the middle of the night. We don't talk much, but I believe we have a more complete communion with one another than even lovers have.”

It is evident in both stories that hubris is the main underlying theme, Agamemnon uses his power of command the chief to think that the laws do not apply to him, in the beginning of the Iliad Agamemnon is seen stealing two young women away from their homes, which even in that time was illegal. He is seen abusing his power which our hero in the story does not stand for, so he leaves the war. This is also the same in All Quite on the Western Front, Himmelstoss who was just a simple postman became a corporal for the German army. He was hungry for power and to show off his bravery to his family back at home, “Returning to the barracks he had to go along a dark, uninhabited road. There we waited for him behind a pile of stones. I had a bed cover with me. We trembled with suspense, hoping he would be alone. At last, we heard his footstep, which we recognized easily, so often had we heard it in the mornings”. Paul and his friends wait for Himmelstoss to return so that they can jump him and beat him. Paul hated his drilling sergeant because of strictness and unfairness, just like Achilles who hated Agamemnon, who treated Achilles almost the same as Himmelstoss treated Paul.

This shows the reader that no matter the side or the battle the soldiers will experience the same things, they share horror stories like for example shells dropping and they share the same closeness with friends and they also will all experience the loss of friends and loved ones. So, therefore, throughout time and history no matter the war or the side all soldiers experience the same things.

Wilfred Owen was a soldier in WW1, he was an educated man fighting for Britain on the front line. Owen was an unknown poet at the time but during his many years serving, he wrote dozens of poems which would lead to him being one of the most known war heroes of his time. Owen wrote realistic poems about what war was like for the men on the front line, he wrote about his friends dying, and he wrote about the attacks that the soldiers had to endure, just like All Quite on the Western Front it gives grim accounts of the war, as well as showcasing the fact that people who were not on the front line had no idea what it was like for them. “On the platform, I look round; I know no one among all the people hurrying to and fro. A red-cross sister offers me something to drink. I turn away, she smiles at me too foolishly, so obsessed with her importance: 'Just look, I am giving a soldier coffee!'—She calls me 'Comrade,' but I will have none of it.” And just like in Dulce et Decorum Est, Owen tells how if you had seen what he had seen you would not tell children who want to be heroes that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.

“My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old lie: Dulce et decorum Est

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Pro patria mori.”

“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to 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 its shells, were destroyed by the war.” Remarque talks about what he lived through by using a fictional character whom the reader can assume experienced the same horrors as Remarque did. Owen and Remarque are seen to constantly draw parallels and come to the same conclusion, war is not fun and games and not something people will just forget about, like Remarque says a generation of men is destroyed by the war. Owen states in Dulce et Decorum Est

“if in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind the wagon, we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil sick of sin;”

“– An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,”

“It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit. In a bombproof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hours' bombardment unscathed.”

In both of these ‘stories,’ the writers tell about how war is not something of skill, not something a man can train for and come out alive. It is something that is complete luck and if luck is not on your side then you are dead. Both of them went through the war even though they were on opposite sides they experienced the same thing as one another, which to some readers is a complete surprise, but by having the previous knowledge of what the Allis went through and then reading All Quite on the Western Front and realizing that they went through the same thing, it gives the reader a greater understanding to why the men that came home were broken from what they experienced. Because they all had the same weaponry, they all had guns and gas and grenades, but linking these two pieces of work together really sets in the reader's mind that this happened, and many people were killed.

“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” Remarque ended All Quite on the Western Front with the possibility that Paul was killed in combat, but it is not confirmed. This although not in Owen's writing is how Owens's own personal story ended, during a battle peacefully slipping off the earth. As the reader, I draw similarities to those stories because it shows that after all their work the men just fade away to be another war story, even though they were on opposite sides of the war.

All Quite on the Western Front without the context of World War One and other stories, still gives the reader an amazing insight into what it was like for the soldiers. But by having that context or reading it after and relating it to Remarque's novel, it gives the reader different perspectives and realizations.

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