The Losing of One’s Self
War eradicates one’s mind as well as one’s body. All Quiet on the Western Front (by Erich Maria Remarque) flawlessly illustrates this as the main character Paul loses himself as the book goes on. For example, In Chapter 7, Paul is on leave and realizes that he has lost interest in all the commodities he loves and used to hold dear. No longer does he find comfort in the leathery pages of a novel, and is left to wonder how he can go back to civilian life after the war. He inwardly cries out to the books, exailiming: “speak to me—take me up—take me up”, but to no avail. Later, after Paul is done talking with a blissfully ignorant man on the street, he is thinking about how leave was supposed to be different from this. He feels he can’t even begin to understand the civilians and their lives:
They talk too much for me. they have worries, aims, desires, that I cannot comprehend. I often sit with one of them in the little beer garden and try to explain to him that this is really the only thing: just to sit quietly, like this. they understand of course, they agree, they may even feel it so too, but only with words, only with words, yes, that is it—they feel it, but always only half of themselves, the rest of their being taken up with other things, they are so divided in themselves that none feels it with his whole essence; I cannot even say myself exactly what I mean.
War has torn Paul so far apart that he cannot understand anything about civillian’s lives. He wants to comprehend, wants to understand, wants to have a normal life; but war has made it so that can never be possible. He describes it as a “distance” or some kind of “veil” between the normal fold and himself preventing him from being normal again. War has ruined Paul’s life without causing him bodily harm. War can splatter one’s brains across a wall, rip your guts from your abdomen, and blow your limbs from your body; however, an almost equal danger can be the decimation of one’s self.
The Horrors of War
~Tommy and Max
War is truly atrocious. While that comes as no surprise, the book All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque perfectly illustrates this with the main character Paul losing his closest friends, losing himself, and losing everything he used to hold dear. This is evident when Paul witnesses unspeakable horrors in service of his country. In Chapter 6, Paul and his company are sent to the front line to fight; and that is where they are bombarded, attacked, and scarred for life:
We see men living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps into the next shell hole; a lance-corporal crawls a mile and a half on his hands dragging his smashed knee after him; another goes to the dressing station and over his clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see men without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death. The sun goes down, night comes, the shells whie, life is at an end.
Paul and these men have seen things that no man should ever have to see; and for what? They’re fighting a war they don’t care about, a war that doesn’t matter to them; all they want is for it to end. And yet these “dirty” and “pallid” are still sent to their deaths. War and death encompass each other, and Paul takes notice: “But on every yard lies a dead man” All one can hope for is a swift and clean death on the battlefield.