“Never believe any war will be smooth and easy,” (Winston Churchill) shows that there are a wide variety of experiences of war. These experiences can be seen in All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque in the conditions of the front, killing and death and the home front. Conditions on the front were extremely harsh on the soldiers. The soldiers are on total alert for any incoming of shells and bullets. They are harassed by gas clouds and offensive attacks. Remarque shows the many emotions of soldiers to reflect the conditions of the front.
The first example is by personifying the sounds of battle. “Invisible menace, howling, whistling and hissing” gives the shells a negative quality. By using the actions of new recruits further shows the fear of the soldiers. There is the incident of the blonde recruit “huddles under my arm. ” This shows the degrading of a human from the experiences of war. The sheer urgency of the situation is shown in the style by the long sentences broken only by dashes and commas such as on page 47.
Remarque also brings horror through the horrors of the rats and lice. They are corpse-rats” juxtaposes the matter-of-fact tone of the novel with the repulsive actions of the rats feeding off the corpses. This further with their descriptions as “horrible, evil looking, naked faces” gives us the true horrors that they face in the trenches. The treatment of the soldiers on the front shows the nasty conditions of the front. Throughout the book, Remarque portrays Paul and his friends in a small group that is not part of the enemy. “The army is never that good to us” shows how the army does not treat them well. Remarque also says “Open arrest is quite pleasant… ometimes we get treated with respect” further showing how the army do not treat them well.
It can be seen that through the conditions of the front, the experiences of war are portrayed. Killing and death is another major experience of war. In the war, the soldiers deal with death through humour. Uncomfortable jokes such as “you’ll be lucky to get a coffin at all… they’ll just use a tarpaulin to wrap up that target-practice dummy you call a body” show how they deal with death, but also emphasises the amount of dead (they don’t even have enough coffins) juxtaposed by the matter-of-fact tone to show the soldiers acceptance of Death.
He also uses nature’s adaptation to the death as a sign of the large numbers of death: “two butterflies… settle on the teeth of a skull. ” Remarque talks about killing as a way of survival. Here, Paul does not believe he is fighting humans but Death itself: “the hands and helmets that are after us belong to Death himself. ” Once again the long flowing sentence shows the heat of battle. Words such as ‘wave’ show the ferocity and intensity of the battle. Remarque takes this further by juxtaposing it to society.
He talks about himself as “murderers, I suppose devils” showing how much he is changed from society, emphasising how the experiences of war have changed him. Remarque also uses the scene of Paul in a shell hole with the enemy he killed to bring realisation that Death is not just a concept – it is human. Paul realises that he is the thing he has feared for so long – to the enemy he is Death. The word “gurgling” brings emotion into Paul. Remarque slows down the pace by describing each detail and by repeating words.
This allows us to finally feal the emotions of the soldiers in the front which is normally swept away by the pace of the action. We come to the realisation that war is just men killing men, and see how the experiences affect the soldiers, with Paul wanting to become “a printer” to replace Gerard Duval – the man he killed. Death also appears in the hospitals.
In addition, when Kemmerich dies, the orderly’s comment that “we’ve got them lying on the ground out there” shocks us by the sheer number of casualties. Also in the catholic hospital the Dying Room represents a place of fear for soldiers as they know that when they are taken to that room they are about to die. Once again death is seen in fear. It can be seen that through death and killing we see how a soldier is affected by the experiences of war. The home front shows how the experiences of war have affected the soldiers. When Paul returns to the home front he is a stranger.
Remarque states that Paul does “not belong here anymore, it is a foreign world. ” This is not because the town has changed, but Paul has. Remarque mentions how each day is a lifetime of experience, and it can be seen from Paul’s large knowledge of the consequences of war (“I shoved the helmet over his backside… a wound there can be bloody painful”) that he would be unable to fit back into society (“we are refugees”) who do not understand him. He no longer wears his uniform as he cannot bear the people that ask him what war is like because he cannot explain to them what he has experienced.
Paul also says “we are old now” showing that they have been changed from the experiences of war that they feel older than they really are. It can be seen by the home front how soldiers have been affected by the experiences of war. In concluding, it can be seen through the home front, killing and death and the conditions of the front how Remarque shows the experiences of war in All Quiet on the Western Front. We can therefore fee the wide variety of experiences that Winston Churchill hints to when he says “Never believe any war will be smooth and easy. “