Think About the Concept of Enemies in War. Whom Do Paul and His Friends Regard as Their Enemies?
Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is an abstruse proclamation against war, which focuses especially on the destroying effects of war on soldiers’ humanity. Romantic ideals of warfare are under attack throughout Paul’s narration. The novel depicts the detachment between rhetoric about patriotism and honor and the real horror of trench warfare (Gilbert). The author constantly underlines that the soldiers do not fight for hypothetical believes of patriotic spirit; they fight to survive. They are busy with looking for shelter, food, and clothing. They do their best to avoid gunfire and bombs. Nothing makes the true experience of war look fair in this novel. Even the friendship between Paul and his fellow soldiers goes through reality.
Moreover, Remarque also examines the gap in age and power enlarged by war; he illustrates the war as ultimate betrayal of the older generation of the younger. Paul and the men of his age joined the war under the heavy pressure of people whom they trusted as authority figures. They believe these people to be their leaders and guide them to maturity instead of sending them to the death with empty slogans of patriotic duty (Ian West Wall).
As the story goes on Paul begins to realize much how the older generation has betrayed them. This passage describes the older generation that was willing to let “lads of eighteen” fight a war for glory, but without actually experiencing any combat themselves. The older generation is sure to be unfaithful to Paul’s generation, as they expect them to be “mediators and guides to the world of maturity . . . to the future,” and now he realized that the “world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces” (Remarque).These lines conclude that it is time for him to decide, and for his comrades to see what is actually good and what is actually bad, as they cannot have faith in the older anymore. Paul feels bewildered and betrayed about whom to trust. Paul’s classmates pass away with the development of the novel’s plot. Because of war and awful condition of the trenches, the class fellows, who are still alive, suffer a lot. The older generation wanted the younger generation to be in war, to make their country much better than others. It is not the war in which soldiers fight for freedom or something good for their country. It strikes them that they fight for the self-importance of the country. Ideals of nationalism are the reason why the older generation is willing to sacrifice young men for. Seeing all the suffering at war, Paul understands that the true enemies are the people in his country who want and make them fight for such ideals. Having understood everything, Paul and friends killed to stay alive.
When there is a talk about enemies between Paul and his friends, they do not wish to speak about the soldiers on the opposite side. Instead of it, they focus their attention on their antipathy to Kantorek and Himmelstoss. Kantorek, Paul, and his friends’ former schoolteacher, appears only in one scene and a deep impression lasts until the end of the novel. This character depicts nationalism, and the strange ideology of blind dedication to the country which captured Europe before and during the First World War. His patriotic slogans and bullying inspired Paul and his class fellows to go to fight. He also named them “Iron Youth”. When Paul sees Kantorek be enlisted in the war, he felt revenged. At least, now Kantorek is to fight and probably die for the war which he actively helped promote. Himmelstoss, like Kantorek, is in a few scenes, but he is also an important representative figure. Through humiliating people he domineers over the others.
Himmelstoss and Kantorek, like other trusted authority figures, are viewed as the source of Paul and his classmates’ senseless struggle. It was these authority figures who sent them to war with disastrously faulty chimeras that they come across when they set off on a wonderful journey to struggle for dignity and fame. They start to see all the soldiers at the front, who were made to fight, in spite of their origin, as sufferers. During the meeting with Russian prisoners, Paul could not believe that these people are all his enemies. He understands that only the words of his leaders make them enemies. Having a lot in common, the Russians and Paul are forced to kill each other because of the conflicts of the people who are at power. Even more, the soldiers are much closer to each other than to their leaders (Wagener).
This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try to simply tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.