All Quiet On The Western Front Essay

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Without an enemy, there cannot be a war. In “All Quiet On the Western Front,” Erich Remarque deconstructs the signifier “enemy” through the perspective of the German soldier Paul Baumer. Paul begins as a volunteer who is willing to kill a vague and abstract enemy in order to survive, but then after face-to-face encounters with the enemy, he recognizes their common humanity. This transition leads to Paul’s ultimate understanding that the term “enemy” was endowed without real reason, and that the quarrel is not theirs, but their price to pay. Paul is the mouthpiece for Remarque, and by analyzing the procession of his encounters with the “enemy” we can conclude that in Remarque’s eyes, without a true enemy, war is a pointless waste of life.
Paul and his comrades regard the enemy as a vague and ambiguous abstraction. They are referred to as “the fellows over there” more frequently than any specific title. Paul and his comrades mostly demonstrate indifference towards them. There is no name-calling or vulgarities, even when describing a gruesome attack, “The bayonet frequently jams on the thrust and then a man has to kick hard on the other fellow’s belly to pull it out again” (Remarque 104). He is merely another fellow, as indescript as a stranger on the street. The soldiers are not personal with their enemy, and this is emphasized when Paul and his comrades repel a French attack early in the novel. It is kill or be killed, and animal instincts rule: “We have become wild beasts.…

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