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All Quiet on the Western Front

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:28 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 57.2 
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The Problem of Language in "All Quiet on the Western Front"             For it is no easy undertaking, I say,               to describe the bottom of the Universe;               nor is it for tongues that only babble child's play.                                           (The Inferno, XXXII, 7-9.)             Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, a novelset in World War I, centers around the changes wrought by the war on oneyoung German soldier.   During his time in the war, Remarque's protagonist,Paul Baumer, changes from a rather innocent Romantic to a hardened andsomewhat caustic veteran.   More importantly, during the course of thismetamorphosis, Baumer disaffiliates himself from those societalicons--parents, elders, school, religion--that had been the foundation ofhis pre-enlistment days.   This rejection comes about as a result ofBaumer's realization that the pre-enlistment society simply does notunderstand the reality of the Great War.   His new society, then, becomesthe Company, his fellow trench soldiers, because that is a group which doesunderstand the truth as Baumer has experienced it.             Remarque demonstrates Baumer's disaffiliation from thetraditional by emphasizing the language of Baumer's pre- andpost-enlistment societies.   Baumer either can not, or chooses not to,communicate truthfully with those representatives of his pre-enlistment andinnocent days.   Further, he is repulsed by the banal and meaninglesslanguage that is used by members of that society.   As he becomes alienatedfrom his former, traditional, society, Baumer simultaneously is able tocommunicate effectively only with his military comrades.   Since the novelis told from the first person point of view, the reader can see how thewords Baumer speaks are at variance with his true feelings.   In his prefaceto the novel, Remarque maintains that "a generation of men ... weredestroyed by the war"   (Remarque, All Quiet Preface).   Indeed, in All Quieton the Western Front, the...


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