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The Problem of Language in "All Quiet on the Western Front"

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 06:28 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 63.6 
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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 novel set in World War I, centers around the


changes


wrought by the war on one young German soldier. During his time in the war, Remarque’s protagonist, Paul


Baumer, changes from a rather innocent Romantic to a hardened and somewhat caustic veteran. More


importantly, during the course of this metamorphosis, Baumer disaffiliates himself from those societal


icons—parents, elders, school, religion—that had been the foundation of his pre-enlistment days. This


rejection


comes about as a result of Baumer’s realization that the pre-enlistment society simply does not


understand the


reality of the Great War. His new society, then, becomes the Company, his fellow trench soldiers, because


that is


a group which does understand the truth as Baumer has experienced it.




Remarque demonstrates Baumer’s disaffiliation from the traditional by emphasizing the language of


Baumer’s


pre- and post-enlistment societies. Baumer either can not, or chooses not to, communicate truthfully with


those


representatives of his pre-enlistment and innocent days. Further, he is repulsed by the banal and


meaningless


language that is used by members of that society. As he becomes alienated from his former, traditional,


society,


Baumer simultaneously is able to communicate effectively only with his military comrades. Since the novel


is told


from the first person point of view, the reader can see how the words Baumer speaks are at variance with


his true


feelings. In his preface to the novel, Remarque...

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