Comparison of War

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The two novels, All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque and The Storm of Steel by Junger, are two different perspectives of a common theme, the theme of war. While Junger’s recollection of the war seems to glorify battle, Remarque strongly emphasizes the horrors of war. Throughout his novel, Junger seems to be a bloodthirsty murderer, whereas Remarque shows regret and remorse for taking a man’s life. Though each book gives a different perspective, both novels give a sense of patriotism to the reader. Throughout Remarque’s recollection of the Great War, he gives a very dark and truthful description of battle. “I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. ” (263) This excerpt alone gives the reader a sense of the horrors of war. Remarque emphasizes the point that people don’t simply kill, but they “innocently slay” each other. This adds to the dark tone of the novel, whereas Junger emphasizes heroics in his recollection. “The bravest push to the front shooting and bomb throwing. ” (273). Junger glorifies the leaders of war by calling the men brave and at one point he describes a man’s death by saying that, “he slipped over to death smiling like a child” (274). Junger sees war as an inevitable part of life, and Remarque describes the whole thing as chance. “…every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck. ” (101) After reading both novels, it is very clear that Junger is much more willing to take another man’s life. He even comes off as blood thirsty in excerpts such as “… I threw away my rifle and rushed with clenched fists on to the road between the two sides. ” (277). This gives the reader a sense the hatred that Junger had toward the enemy. To charge the enemy with no weapon would be considered ludicrous and suicidal but Junger does it without a second thought. On the other hand, Paul from Remarque’s novel kills only out of the animal instinct of kill or be killed. After killing his first enemy in hand to hand combat he says, “Comrade, I did not want to kill you… Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? ” (223). This quote clearly shows Paul’s compassion and regret whereas Junger is a hardened officer who knows he cannot show emotions in front of his men. Both accounts of the war show a form of Patriotism. Ernst Junger clearly displays his patriotism by writing, “…we believe ourselves entrusted with the true and spiritual welfare of our people… Germany lives and shall never go under! (318-319) Junger obviously believes in what he did and would do it again whereas Remarque, on the other hand, writes about how Paul and his men often questions why they fight. Remarque writes, “We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terrible alone; and alone we must see it through. ” (13) This is an ideal quote to show how Paul had lost faith in his government and in his commanders. He does not even know what he is fighting for, he doesn’t know who is making them fight and he doesn’t know why he must kill. He realizes that he must finish what he has started. There is no turning back. As you can see, even though both novels share a common theme of war, it is viewed in two very different perspectives. Junger’s book glorifies war and its heroics whereas Remarque views war as the closest a man can come to Hell while his heart is still beating. Junger clearly recalls why he is fighting and is strong in his patriotism but Paul, however, is confused on why he is fighting. He is only playing the cards he has been dealt. It is also very clear that Remarque’s character is not a born killer like Junger. Paul is simply just a kid who was handed a gun but war can harden anyone into a soldier as expressed by Remarque, “We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war. ” (87-88)

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