By: Evren Khan and Charlie Hood
The two sides of war
“War does not determine who is right - only who is left”
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.