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One of the most popular novels on the World War I, All Quite on the Western Front, is one of the benchmarks of the Remarque’s novels. It is written in the ‘bildungsroman’ format; hence it successfully portrays the personal developments of a young man in fragmented narrative passages that successfully deconstruct the disoriented state of Paul’s mind, the first person narrator.
Identifying the Features
The abundant small words and small phrases can conform to the tone of the novel, they can easily attribute to the incessant gun fire in the front lines. Another dramatic element in the novel is that sometimes the author skips weeks of time without providing any single detail, that successfully moves the timeline throughout the novel in a fast pace. So the narrator does not stop lamenting any friend’s death but continues to drive along, so that the reader gets more and more attached to discovering the later parts of the journey. That hugely contributes to the movement and sentence structure of the novel. There are several literary and philosophical features in the novel, like that of Plato, Lycurgus, Goethe, or even the poetic language by Gottingen.
There are several motifs in the novel, and the pressure of patriotic idealism is the most prominent of all. Kantorek, the teacher, and his impassioned patriotic speeches convinced Paul and some of his friends to join the army. The speeches were filled with poetic devices; they were idealistic and full of patriotic and national glory. For example, he called them ‘iron youth’, talking about how strong and hard they were, and hence claiming that they had to go and join the army to serve their motherland in the time of need. But all the poetic devices used in the text do not portray the real horrors of the war.
War is not a place to show one’s emotions, for the majority of the soldiers, it is something that traps a person in a constant state of mental insecurity and panic. What initially made them energetic; made Paul and his other friends increasingly disgusted by the same words in the later parts of the novel. That was the effect of war on the poetic devices used in the speech, and it is vividly portrayed by the author. The characters clearly understood that any lofty ideal or speech can not protect a person in the front from bullets, or the physical and emotional agonies that one suffers from the war.
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Properly reviewing the novel, we can say that the main literary device of the novel is the realistic portrayal of the carnage and gore of the war. Every battle scene of the novel is filled up with brutal and bloody war descriptions. For example, Paul carries one of his wounded friends, Kat, on his back to a safe place; and when he reached that place, he finds out that Kat is dead as a piece of shrapnel has entered his head while Paul was carrying him out of the battle. Description of the hospital scenes, the cries of the patients, suffering from bloody wounds, and death, is the only effective literary device used in the novel, which has been mastered by the author with impersonal efficiency. The desperation in Paul’s mind is evident in the lines by Remarque, “The days, the weeks, the years out here shall come back again, … our dead comrades beside us, the year at the Front behind us — against whom, against whom?” (140).
Among numerous symbols in the novel, one of the most potent is Kemmerich’s boots. Kemmerich had extremely high and supple boots. These boots were passed from one soldier to another, and by the stroke of luck every owner of the boot died in the battle. In his own deathbed, Kemmerich himself recalled how he got the pair of these boots from the dead body of an airman. Paul gave the boots to Muller after the death of Kemmerich, and after the death of Muller, he took back the boots. These boots are nothing but a symbol of cheapness of the human life in the war time.
Here, in the front, a good, strong, and durable pair of boots is of a more value than the life of a human being. Along with that, it is also a symbols of the pragmatism related to the war. The human emotions must have to be sidelined in any war. Grief and pain should be blocked out, while one should aim at reaching the only thing, the heart of the enemy. A soldier has to be good at turning on and off his mind. Paul understood that instinct is the most important weapon in the war. He had to be more of an animal and less of a human, and this was clearly reflected in his writings. This motif vividly shows the destruction of human instincts under the war conditions.
The Basic Idea
The fundamental idea behind the novel is clearly reflected in the words of Remarque, “The life that has borne me through these years is still in my hands and my eyes. Whether I have subdued it … heedless of the will that is within me” (295).
Without any decorative adjectives or overflowing emotions, Paul has certainly passed his message to the readers in his final words. The confident words suggest a person who has changed his earlier self, and hence does not have any need to use poetical adjectives. The only adjective is ‘heedless’, which nearly suggests what person Paul has become after the war. Without using any other linguistic styles or spilling any other emotional beans, Paul does not say anything more than necessary, though he has a lot of things in mind. The literary devices in the novel show the coming out of age of certain young persons. They had came out of age with the help of a catalyst, the World War I. As it is a book of the German author, there is an un-American feeling in the book; this makes the story more effective than any English book on the similar topic.