The Big Ideas in All Quiet on the Western Front, a Novel by Erich Maria Remarque

In the book All Quiet on the Western Front, one could argue that there are many big ideas. The unspecific “big idea” that encompasses the main theme of the book is that war is oppressive to those involved in it. However, we see throughout the book that the view of the opposition in the war changes. We see that the enemy is just a reflection of Paul himself. The first example of how the enemy is a reflection of Paul is when Paul and the Germans are counterattacking the French attacks. This is in the beginning of the book, and it describes the original views of the opposition by Paul and his friends.

This is before they meet the enemies and before Paul is so traumatically changed after he kills an enemy. In this paragraph we do see an image of self noticing. While going through an attack against the French, Paul realizes that the only reason they are attacking is in response to the attack of the French. We can see this on page 113, when Paul says, “We do not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation.” This refers to the fact that the enemy is a reflection of Paul, or in this case the Germans. Paul realizes in the beginning of the book that he can’t notice what the enemy is like because of the brutality of the war. On page 113 he says, “We have become wild beasts… what do we know of men in this moment when Death is hunting us down.”

When Remarque shows imagery by using the term wild beasts, it gives us the the picture of wild beasts fighting, which is the idea that they mindlessly fight, driven by only anger and showing no emotion. This could also be symbolism, because wild beasts usually die quickly and are also quickly forgotten. Remarque could be showing that the soldiers are also like wild beasts, the way they are killed and replaced and forgotten so quickly. We can see from this quote that the enemy is more looked at as monsters, but then Paul sees that he himself it a ‘wild beast’ of sorts. This keeps referring to the fact that the enemy is just a reflection of Paul. The next example that Paul is a reflection of the enemy is in the later part of the book.

In pages 191-197, Remarque shows the interaction between Paul and the Russian prison camp. We see that Paul’s camp is separated by a Russian prison camp with only a fence. As Paul starts to see the soldiers, he realizes something that hasn’t been clearly spelled out to him throughout the war: They are people too. In page 191, he starts to interact with the soldiers and says, “If I could know more of them… my emotions would have an object and might become sympathy.” The reason this is so significant is it opens his eyes. He looks at war in a whole new light. He doesn’t necessarily see the opposition as monsters trying to kill him, but as fellow soldiers defending their country for what they think is right. This ties back to the point that Paul and the enemies seem like a reflection of each other. The big idea of this passage is exclaimed by Paul in page 193-194 as he says, “A word of command has made these silent figures our enemies…

A word of command makes them our friends.” This quote is a use of imagery because a silent figure makes us imagine helpless people who don’t necessarily have an opinion, almost like they are puppets and the generals are the puppeteer and with one order, they can be friends. This is a real turning point in the story, because Paul no longer sees a reason to fight in the war. He has an overwhelming realization that the people he is killing are just like him: people. This could also be a real life experience from the author, because Remarque may have lived through the same realization that the enemy is just like him but with a different uniform on. Lastly, the overwhelming realization that falls upon Paul when he kills an enemy soldier is an example that Paul sees the enemy as a reflection of himself. Paul is hiding in a shell-hole to spy on the French, when an enemy soldier crawls into the same hole, unaware that Paul is in there.

After he kills the man, who we later find out is named Gerard Duval, Paul gets into a state of deep depression and regret. Paul talks to the dead soldier, and that shows the remorse he has. He talks about how he wishes he knew about how the French are “poor devils just like us,” The use of ‘poor devils’ is a form of imagery because both the word ‘poor’ and ‘devils’ are used in a negative sense in almost every situation. These words give us the images in our head of desperate people who don’t have much happiness in their lives, and that is the basic description of all the soldiers in the book. Paul is also showing how if he had a different uniform on they would be “close friends just like Kat and Albert.” This is in the end of the book, and it sums up the entire idea that Paul developed over the book that the enemy is a direct representation of himself. However, the last line of his speech to the dead soldier sums it up well: “Take twenty years of my life, comrade… for I don’t know what I can even attempt to do with it now.”

This quote is almost foreshadowing, because Paul dies very shortly after making the speech, and he dies without really doing anything with his life after the killing, just like in the quote. It’s unfortunate Paul dies so young, but after he killed Duval, he was at the end of his rope. One might even say his quality of life was the same as that of the killed French soldier. Erich Remarque does a very good job in using order of events to show how Paul develops the idea that he is very similar to the enemy soldiers throughout All Quiet on the Western Front. He uses order of events by building up the amount of pain that Paul goes through in the book and the ideas he develops from the pain.

From a counterattack to killing an enemy soldier, Paul goes from a scared young soldier to a scarred, depressed man who was happy to die. While the theme of the story is very grim, Remarque does a very good job in laying out the idea that the two enemy sides are very similar to each other and the people within them are the same people separated by a uniform. We see Paul’s views change from that of soldiers being killers to the idea that the enemy is a reflection of Paul and that they do what they have to do to defend their country, just like he does.Social stress in finding friends is an irrational fear because it is a part of growing up and learning. As a teen, having a social life is very important. Nobody wants to feel like an outcast and unwanted by their peers. “Everyone wants to be accepted by people they admire” (Teen Health & Wellness). Teens in particular, who are going through new changes and hormones, feel the need to do anything to fit in.

It is surely not bad to feel accepted and loved for being yourself. “It is part of Gods design for us. At the very beginning he said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Parenting Today’s Teens). Although making friends is a good thing, there needs to be caution with what type of influence the kids are receiving. Even though trying to make friends and fit in are part growing up, parents need to be aware of their children’s actions. Parents can play a big role in how their kids react when they are stressed. To prevent problems that can become a rational fear, adults can help in many ways. Good solid relationships with parents and brothers and sisters can have a huge impact on the person who is going through puberty. “At the very core and foundation of teen culture today is a lack of relationships.” (Parenting Today’s Teens).

Having deep talks, opening up when you feel any kind of emotion, and confessing within the family can help the child see what real and honest relationships should look like. Additionally, learning to see the difference between fake friends and real friends will help the kid in many ways. In the time period that we live in today with all the technology, it can be easy to misinterpret the other person; it can lead to confusion and surface-like talks. “They simply don’t know how to develop deep, honest and meaningful relationships…” (Parenting Today’s Teens). If teens would open up to their siblings and parents and vice versa, it will decrease the peer pressure because they are getting real and honest advice. Homes should always be trustworthy and safe places to communicate personal problems without feeling judged. Families can also help someone understand how to cope better in negative situations involving drugs, opposite sex, alcohol, depression, etc.

Negative peer pressure seems to overpower positive peer pressure which can lead to a lot of stress on parents. Despite the fact that peer pressure is more of an irrational fear, it can be rational as well. Those with stress anxieties or severe depression could argue peer pressure as being a rational fear. Not only could they have a fear of social stress, but counselors and parents may likely argue the point because they are involved in helping those try to overcome it as a living. “Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults.” (Anxiety disorders). It is not rare to develop an anxiety disorder.

That’s why it is so important to have solid relationships with your family. “These disorders fill people’s lives with overwhelming anxiety and fear.” (Anxiety disorders). If you do not treat stress while it is still ‘small’, you can get yourself into disorders which can become a rational fear for you and your peers. Having social stress within finding friends can go both ways with being an irrational or rational fear. Many would say that I peer pressure is an irrational fear, while a smaller amount would probably argue the opposite.

Social stress is more likely to be an irrational fear because the majority of the population has ‘normal’ responses to dealing with how to act around friends. Everyone wants to be liked by their peers because nobody likes the feeling of judgment and isolation. It is definitely not bad to feel wanted. However, when someone goes so far into what they want, it can lead to anxiety disorders. Parents can play a huge role in how their kids act when they are under a lot of peer pressure. They can prevent depression, drug use, sex, alcohol, you name it. Making friends is not a bad thing but there is definitely a fine line with learning how to deal with them. Although friendships are very healthy to build, there can be a lot of negative peer pressure which can lead to much stress on the direct people as well as indirect people.

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