FUTILITY OF WAR
It took Remarque quite a long period of time before recounting his
experiences in the Great War. He was concerned that Europe would fall into the abyss again, and so he decided to provide an honest overview of what actually happened in the trenches on both sides during the
The clear message is that there was no glory or honor in this war.
The reasons that men gave for enlisting were nationalism and patriotism, which were soon shown to be false and hollow. Remarque blames this conflict on perhaps not more than thirty individuals who used up a whole generation of young men in pursuing their own selfish desires.
The millions of victims arising out of this conflict were lucky if they had
a quick and clean death.
However, many went through a process of degeneration and dehumanizing before they met their death, and those that survived were never whole again, being both physically and mentally scarred.
To emphasize Remarque’s main themes, he makes important statements, usually
at the end of each of the 12 Chapters. Here are a few examples:
In Chapter 1, we have the incident with Kemmerich’s boots.
These he had obtained from an airman, and now that he has only one leg, he will not require them and when he dies, they are passed on to Muller. When Muller dies, the boots pass on to Paul, and presumably the boots see out the rest of the war on someone else’s feet. From this we learn that ‘things’ are more important than people.
In Chapter 3, Remarque is concerned with the dehumanizing of the soldiers
and the effects that power has over them. Paul’s class mates take their revenge on Himmelstoss and nearly murder the sadistic Corporal.
In Chapter 6, we get an insight into the scale of losses suffered.
We learn that only 32 of the original 150 in Paul’s company remain after a prolonged period of fighting.
In Chapters 7 and 8, we note the effects that the War has on the home front
where Paul has difficulty in picking up the pieces of his home life. He cannot share his experiences with his loved ones because they would not understand.