-By Zachary Anderson ..”In one part of our being, a thousand years. By the animal instinct that is awakened in is we are led and protected. It is not conscious; it is far quicker, much more sure, less fallible, than consciousness. One cannot explain it”(56). On the battlefield of any war, past or present one would think any soldier had felt that sense of survival at one point or another.
This could be named impulse acted on by fear, nervousness, or as the quote defined it, instinct in violence. The very descriptive violence in the book is one of the large clues that tell us Erich Maria Remarque, the author, is telling us some of the events he had to go through when he served in the war. Other wise it would have been another boring war novel of which classes could be spared the time. These points in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, can be greatly explained and identified. When confronted with his survival, this instinct can drive a man to do anything for survival, even turn his senses and behavior into a wilder state of human evolution.
One of the strongest themes in the book is that war makes man inhuman when confronted by violence and, or in war. From the authors point of view soldiers were often compared to various non-living objects, that were inhuman. “The soldiers are often compared to coins of different provinces that are melted down, and now they bear the same stamp.”(236) Remarque thinks that the soldiers mind-state has been changed from when they were schoolboys, the stamp being the mark of the soldier, changing them forever. Also soldiers are compared with “automatons” or more commonly referred to as robots. In reminder of all soldiers of either side had to go through and witness without the traumatizing violence and gore one would not have much understood this point.
To a country or at least in charge, the soldiers are no more than this: inanimate devices of war or pawns. Remarque uses this analogy to give the impression that the soldiers are enduring the same feeling over and over again, as if they were inhuman. In this classic war story Remarque also describes the soldiers as inhuman wild beasts in addition to the non-living objects. Paul states that when soldiers reach the zone where the front begins they are transformed into “instant human animals”(56) Remarque explains the zone is like a magical line; once crossed the soldiers are not the same person(s) as they were in a safe distance. Experiencing violence on the front trapped in a crater of a shell, though protected by it, Paul Baumer feels such desperation. “My eyes burn with staring into the dark.
A star shell goes up;-I duck down again. I wage a wild and senseless fight. I want to get out of the hollow an yet slide back into it again; I say ” you must, it is your comrades, it is not an idiotic command” and again ” what dies it matter to me, I have only one life to loose.”(211) This could mean even then though acting as some beast for survival he too has scrummed to the belief he is just another pawn. As nothing more than wild beasts Remarque states that the German soldiers are only defending what they have, not attempting to take what they dont “We have become wild beasts. We do not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation..we feel a mad anger.
“No longer do we lie helpless, waiting on the scaffold, we can destroy and kill to save ourselves, to save ourselves and to be revenged.”(113) This could be explaining that any emotion they are fighting out of at this point is from aggravation and for their own survival, and no other situation other than that of war and violence could bring this about. The sense of fighting for the glory of the FatherLand has long since gone. These points have highlighted when confronted with their survival and the presence of survival even if it means changing his human nature. A second point is they can be as dolls, or coins that bare the same stamp, almost as war currency. Though all in all they were beasts when confronted with violence, or dogs without names, as long as they can survive it all.
All that is needed to make such points clear does not have to be a series of explanations, rather simple and to the point imagery.