The Sacrifices of Soldiers

By: Evren Khan, Caleb Fehm, and Eston Brainerd

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Sacrifice is an honor that soldiers never get to receive. In All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Paul sacrificed his past life for his country, his friends, and his family. Every human makes sacrifices for what they love, but the sacrifices of soldiers are the greatest. Soldiers give up what they once had to fight; they give up their later sanity; they give up their limbs; and they give up their lives. As Paul rests for a short time after fighting and watching his comrades sacrifice their lives, he thinks of all that he and all other soldiers have given to the war:

While they (the pontificating teachers and politicos) continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one's country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger

Paul and the other soldiers of the “Iron Youth” shoulder the burden of the war for their country. They sacrifice their mind and matter for what they believe in. For some, their sacrifices were in vain, for others, they gave up their own lives to save others. Paul speaks of the war as “the onslaught of nothingness," yet he fights on and sacrifices along with the other soldiers. The only escape the soldiers get from their misery is death, and they know this, yet they keep fighting. Wars are won by people who will give up everything for what they believe in.


The Comradeship of Soldiers

By: Evren Khan and Caleb Fehm

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Comrades are one connected entity, and in All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, the soldiers are comrades that feel no differences between each other. Paul and the other soldiers feel a “communion” between themselves, and an “Intimacy” they share that even best friends don’t have. The Front is not a place where soldiers can think only about themselves. Paul and other soldiers go on a scouting mission on The Front during the dead of night, but are spotted and shot at. Paul ducks down and loses his sense of direction in the pandemonium. Luckily, he hears the voices of his friends, and finds his way back to the trench. 

I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness;—I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life, we are nearer than lovers, in a simpler, a harder way; I could bury my face in them, in these voices, these words that have saved me and will stand by me. [Chapter Nine]

Paul is able to get through his suffering by embracing the presence of his comrades. He says, “I listen to them and feel comforted, reassured by their presence.” The horror the soldiers experience is distributed equally on the shoulders of each other. They have a “Fellowship” that only death can destroy. They use their connectedness to cope with all that happens around them. The front is a cooking pot of trauma that cannot be addressed. The soldiers are each other’s psychologists. A soldier's journey is not just survival, but keeping other soldiers alive. Comradeship is formed when you least expect it, not when you wish it to be.


Letter From Paul

Dear Evren,

The war is finally over, but not in the way I wanted it to end. I must say that while I would have preferred if we won, at least it is over. I have seen enough of my friends and fellow soldiers die on the battlefield to last myself a lifetime. 

Since the last time I wrote to you, I went back to the front and after that went on leave. At the front I witnessed a young recruit go mad from hunger, thirst, and claustrophobia and rush out of a dugout only to get blown up by a shell. I saw a man’s arms get amputated from his body by barbed wire, and I saw a Lance Corporal’s head get torn off and his blood gushed out like a fountain. To my greatest sorrow, Haie Westhus was killed during our time at the front. You never met him, but I think you would’ve liked him a lot.

My leave was, if possible, more horrible than being at the front. During my time at home I learned that my mother had contracted cancer. Everyone I met in town only talked of my military service as a gift instead of living in hell just because I got free food. My father even wanted me to wear my uniform to dinner so he could flaunt the “honor” of having a soldier in the family. Of course, my whole goal was to forget the war for a couple sweet weeks. Remember Kantorek, the teacher who made me and my friends join the army, I saw him getting grilled by his commanding officer. To be honest, that was the only good part of the trip. 

When I got back from leave I was stationed at a prison camp housing Russian soldiers. I don’t think I have ever felt worse about the state of the world than when I saw those poor decrepit men. I gave them some of my own pitiful military rations so they could live longer and better. I had to go back to the front after that, and I met back up with Kropp, Tjaden, and Kat. We went on a scouting mission, but I was petrified with fear and lost my sense of direction. The French were rushing us, so I hid in some mud, but a French soldier came and I stabbed him without thinking. I listened to him slowly die for a whole day because it was too dangerous to leave my hiding spot, then, at night, I managed to get back to our trench. 

This war has taken everything from me, and my world has fallen apart. I could have had children and owned a business if this war hadn’t happened, but instead, I am stuck eating ancient bread at home with no chance of getting anywhere farther in life because of the reparations Germany has to pay the Allies. I had made a vow during my time at the front to anonymously help out the family of the soldier that I killed, but I must keep myself and my family alive first. Things are pretty grim right now, but I hear that the US is doing great, so hopefully that means that you are doing well. I hope I can come visit you soon in Boston.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your friend, Paul


Cunning & Courage

Soldier’s greatest qualities

 

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Much have I suffered, labored long and hard by now. 

~Odysseus - The Odyssey

 

War is a lottery, but there are ways to improve your odds. In All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, the main character, Paul, uses his skills to survive and not be destroyed from within. Being cunning as you fight and having the courage to push forward are the distinctions between people and soldiers. In Odyssey, it was said: “Take courage, my heart: you have been through worse than this. Be strong, saith my heart; I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this.” This is what a soldier must tell themself as they struggle to survive on the battlefield. However, blind courage will only take you into enemy gunfire. To survive war, a soldier must have cunning along with courage. Again, in the Odyssey it is said to Odysseus: “You're far the best at tactics, spinning yarns, and I am famous among the gods for wisdom, cunning wiles, too.” Not every soldier is a tactical commander, but the soldiers that are most likely to survive are cunning. People like Katczinsky from All Quiet on the Western Front, are able to keep a cool head and fight on with buckling in fear. Katczinsky is respected by all of his friends for being cunning and brave on the battlefield and when it comes to getting essential supplies. When staying alive is all that matters, find someone who is cunning and full of courage.


Chapter 8: Sympathy

By: Evren Khan

No one can control their sympathy

 

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“This world’s anguish is no different from the love the we insist on holding back”

~Aberjhani

 

Even enemies deserve sympathy. In Chapter Nine of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, the main character, Paul, begins to see his enemies as people instead of the wild beasts he believed they were. Paul experiences great sorrow as he watches these men that are supposed to be his mortal enemies suffer. He feels a certain sort of “Comradeship” towards these men that originates from sympathy. After his leave from the front, Paul is stationed at a camp where there are imprisoned Russian soldiers. He watches their squalid and miserable way of life as he keeps watch over them: 

Their life is obscure and guiltless;—if I could know more of them, what their names are, how they live, what they are waiting for, what their burdens are, then my emotion would have an object and might become sympathy.

As Paul continues to see how terrible the lives of the Russian soldiers are, he feels sympathy tinged with despair: ”The awful melancholy of life and the pitilessness of men.” Paul is able to see how “Destitute” the Russian soldiers are, and how pitiful the state of the world is at that moment. He understands that you don’t have to die to reach Hell; you just have to live. Sympathy cannot be forced out; nor can sympathy be stopped; sympathy is the ocean: it goes where it wants. Paul thinks about how in different circumstances many of the Russian prisoners could have been his friends: “They are us. And yet we would shoot at them again and they at us if they were free.” Paul sees the “Misery” of the Russians, and how they aren’t any different from him; brave soldiers fighting on behalf of those who won’t fight themselves. Away from the battle field Paul is able to see his enemies as humans. He even gives them some of his pitiful military rations, so that they may live a bit longer and enjoy life a little more. Feeling sympathy connects people through the fences, bunkers, and trenches that the world is filled with.




Chapters 6 & 7: The Emotional and Physical Horrors of War

By: Evren Khan and Charlie Hood

 

The two sides of war

 

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“War does not determine who is right - only who is left”

~Bertrand Russel

 

You can see horror and war through your eyes or in your mind. In All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, war is portrayed in two ways: the physical and the mental. In Chapter Six Paul Baumer, the main character, escapes shell blasts and witnesses the gore of war, but in Chapter Seven he feels the repercussions of the trauma he faced. In Chapter Six, Paul and his company fight against the French in a ferocious battle of spades and hand grenades on the Western Front. No matter their side of the battle, all the soldiers are in a state of survival that doesn’t discriminate who it ravages next. It is the visceral and evolutionary part of war that leaves no man unscathed, emotionally or physically: 

That fills us with ferocity, turns us into thugs, into murderers, into God only knows what devils; this wave that multiplies our strength with fear and madness and greed of life, seeking and fighting for nothing but our deliverance.

Chapter 6 is merely a gruesome smear of blood on a canvas; however, Chapter Seven is a mental trench that leaves serious emotional carnage. In Chapter Seven, Paul, Leer, and Kropp visit the house of three young French girls near where they are stationed during the dead of night. Paul tries to enjoy the company of the girls, but is still in shock from the horrors of his time at the front. The terror and sorrow that he faced didn’t slowly settle down as the gunfire did when he left the front:

But I-I am lost in remoteness, in weakness, and in a passion to which I yield myself trustingly. My desires are strangely compounded by yearning and misery.

Both chapters expose the terribleness of war, but they each present a different side. In Chapter Six, Paul is simply wandering through hell with his eyes closed, not truly feeling what is happening, however, in Chapter Seven, he feels the consequences of his time there. While his body survived through the front in Chapter Six, his mind seems still to be there during Chapter Seven. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but your body isn’t the only part of you that can die.

 


Manifest Destiny

The riptide of life

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As the waves toss it from side to side, can a lone paper boat sail the sea by its own volition? Is there really any way to control where you go in life? What happens throughout life is something that people can barely control. The freedom of making choices is a treasured gift of humanity. The ability to manifest destiny, control fate, and freedom, are aspirations that all humans share.                                  

    The world is defined by randomness that nothing and nobody controls. Everyone must succumb to their environment, conform to the rules imposed by those with power, and suffer through the terrible things that life throws at them. The control of fate and possibility of changing it can often be described by the short but complicated and debated term, “Manifest destiny,” which means:

Manifest destiny was a phrase coined by the US to justify the country’s expansion in the 19th century, but there is another connotation to manifest destiny: the power to change one’s situation and forge one’s own destiny. 

This phrase is a mere hope that no human can actually achieve. An essay about end-of-life care, “Letting Go”, written by Atul Gawande says, “Sara Thomas Monopoli was pregnant with her first child when her doctors learned that she was going to die.” (1) Sara Monopoli was a non-smoker, healthy eater in her early thirties who contracted lung cancer. No one can honestly say that Sarah could control getting cancer and dying. Even though she was healthy and did things that wouldn’t warrant getting cancer, she still died from it. In other words, there is no way to create your own path in life because you are powerless against the pressures of the world. It is the cruel truth of this world: no one can be who they want to be, so no one can manifest their destiny. 

    Not everyone believes the same definition of manifest destiny. Some people think that manifest destiny doesn’t mean complete ability to control your life, but rather to do your best to change your path, and that everyone can make change. There are many opinions on manifest destiny. A well known American author, Wayne Dyer, wrote a quote about manifest destiny: “You cannot always control what goes on the outside, but you can control what goes on inside.” (2) No one can master others, only themselves. Everyday people are changing their destiny: their future, so manifest destiny is, in reality, something that all humans do. This is a positive view on the matter; saying that everyone has enough power to choose what happens to them because they can control their own actions.

    Manifest destiny is not an impossible hope nor something that everyone can do. Manifest destiny is just being able to control how you react to what the world throws at you while striving to reach your goals and without breaking down. Manifest destiny is the drive to continue against adversity and work to create a better future for yourself. No one can’t control anything that happens to you if you sit around idly, but everyone has no ability to control hidden disasters that life is so fond of. Not everyone can manifest destiny because some people are born into a pit of danger, fear, and suffering too deep to climb out of. Take slavery for example, slaves were generally treated horribly and were threatened with terrible punishments if they disobeyed. For some people like that, not just slaves, but all oppressed people, their identity has been forged to be subservient and docile to their oppressors, so they have no idea how to manifest their destinies. Being able to fight back is humanity’s dream, but, sadly, not everyone is aware of it. 

    If you want change, if you want to manifest your destiny, if you want something to be different, you must push for it as activists, soldiers, and people with  a strong and burning passion in their hearts have done for millennia. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/02/letting-go-2
  2. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/320459329728696456/

The Call of the Wild Reflection

Primitive does not mean simple

 

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Inside all of us is a wild thing

~Maurice Sendak

 

Sometimes the primitive wild is not as simple as you might think. In The Call of the Wild, by Jack London, the primitive is more complicated than I thought was possible. It is hard to read a book that is uninteresting, but it is harder to read a book that is too interesting. Excellent writing is not easy to understand fully. 

    Because the book is 150 years old, there were a lot of words that I didn’t recognize. I had to sit down and put all of my attention into reading and highlighting. I also had to look up many words, and reread many sentences. I was planning to just skim over the book for homework, but there was just too much to unpack for this to be possible. A hundred and twenty pages doesn’t feel like a lot, but when it is philosophical and deep, it takes a lot longer to read. The greater meanings weren’t the only difficult parts of the book. The vocabulary was so expansive that almost every couple of sentences I had a few highlighted new words. When I took breaks from reading, I found my thoughts drifting back to the book. To be honest, it was an excellent book. The chapters all had strong themes that were obvious and popped up in multiple places throughout the story, and these themes were generally the chapter names. Secondary characters were only there to applify themes like: love, fear, obedience, and hatred. All of the influences from the minor characters created the overarching theme of being primitive.

    The way that the powerful, canine main character, Buck, went from a pampered house dog to a primordial beast was an interesting concept. I realized that it is possible for anyone I know to undergo this transformation. Everyone is made to be a beast, but we humans have domesticated ourselves. The words and themes might have been difficult to decipher, but I took something important away: circumstances can change, and humans could be thrown back to the wild like Buck. This relation to the real world made me feel much more positively about the book. The hours spent reading it felt a little bit more worth it.

    The only way to comprehend the greater meaning is to immerse yourself fully in the struggle to understand.