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World War I - What Is It Good For?

Autor:   •  April 4, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,270 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,310 Views

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World War I is responsible for killing millions of men and destroying the rich European culture. For the first time soldiers discovered that war was not the "honor and glory" that was promised by the nation's political leaders. The book All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is widely referred to as the "greatest war novel ever written". World War I is arguably one of the most brutal battles to date. Soldiers fought the majority of the war in trenches. The trenches were often disease ridden, and filled with fallen comrades. In addition to poor living conditions troops were often under threat of enemy gas and artillery attacks. This novel portrays young German soldiers named Paul Bäumer, Kemerick, and Kropp fighting their way through World War I. Paul and his friends served in the trenches and saw firsthand how terrible war can be. Remarque uses Paul and his company as symbols to portray that war is not what the political leaders promised it would be. All Quiet on the Western Front condemns war by showing the process of dehumanization that Paul and his friends undergo, how war destroys culture, and how the book shows the enemy's humanity.

Paul and his comrades start showing signs of dehumanization as the novel progresses. In the case of Kemerick's boots, after Kemerick passes away from an infection, Paul and Kropp mourn his loss. Muller on the other hand admires Kemmerick's new boots and asks: "What good are they to you? I could use them..." (pg. 32). Despite the loss Muller just sees the opportunity to have a new pair of boots, not his dying comrade that used to wear them. Muller in this situation is being used as the classic example of the soldiers being exposed to so much famine that they become used to it. Muller knew that in order to survive the war he had to be completely detached from all emotion. As the war progressed Paul continued to become desensitized due to all of his dying comrades. When Muller died he passed Kemericks boots onto Paul. When Paul receives the new boots from Muller his thoughts were: "…They fit well; my feet will surely be much more comfortable…" (pg. 180). This was a very shocking attitude from Paul; only months ago he was in tears at Kemerick's loss. Being desensitized to death was considered part of becoming a soldier. Soldiers such as Paul became dehumanized to the point of becoming a "war machine". Paul's attitude toward fallen comrades grew less and less sincere as the war progressed, almost as if Paul's senses were being numbed. The war is destroying Paul; it has not yet taken his life, but it has taken what it means to be human, to feel emotion. Paul is slowly starting to become detached in every aspect of his life. The war has slowly been draining the emotion from all the men who are involved in it. This is mainly due to the war which robs the men who fight in it of their emotions.

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