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If All Quiet on the Western

Front had been written for a

pro war audience how and
why might it differ?
Word count: 982


The prescribed question is: If the text had been written in a different time or place or language
or for a different audience, how and why might it differ?
The title of the text for analysis is: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The part of the course to which the task refers: Part III Texts and Contexts
Points that explain the focus of the essay:
! Explore the post WWI milieu in Germany
! Explain the purpose of Remarque writing the novel as a critique of war by showing the
unnecessary waste of a generation of young men
! Explore the accusatory tone that Remarque adopts towards the German Government and
war leaders
! Explain the way in which the novel conflicted with social attitudes towards war and the
way in which war was increasingly glorified by the political right


Following defeat in World War I, Germany was a divided nation. The once great German
Empire had been brought to its knees after a series of disastrous military campaigns. Allied
blockades against Germany had created dramatic food shortages on the home front. Many
believed that victory in war was the only way to alleviate increasing levels of starvation. (Evans,
p. 14). Failure by the German military to honestly report weaknesses and losses in the field
meant that surrender, when it eventually came, was a shock to many. Disillusioned in losing
what had been sold to the public as a defensive war and harshly penalized by the Treaty of
Versailles, many Germans felt bitterness towards the Western powers and the enemies within
that they saw as being responsible
. War became a focus for romanticized nationalism and was
increasingly viewed by the political right as the way to deal with the social and economic
difficulties confronting post-war Germany. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria
Remarque tells the story of Paul Bumer, a young soldier who enlists in war with blind patriotic
fervour. He comes to realise that the sacrificed lives of his generation was a cynical gamble for
power on the part of Germanys leaders. It harshly critiques the leadership of the German
military. The ultimate death of Paul, as with so many of his generation, represents the futility of
war. Had it been written for a pro war purpose, the same story of Paul would not have
emphasised the struggles and tragedy of war but rather the glorious martyrdom of German
soldiers in defense of their nation.
Sample body paragraph
Remarque aimed to underscore the waste of an entire generation through war whose needless
sacrifice was a tragedy. Paul reflects, I am young, I am twenty yeais of age; but I know nothing of
life except uespaii, ueath, feai, anu the combination of completely minuless supeificiality with an
abyss of suffeiing' (Remaique, p. S8). The loss of millions of young men annihilating one anothei
iobbeu them of the oppoitunity to expeiience life, to enjoy the benefits of theii euucation anu
matuie emotional anu psychologically. Insteau these men, when not victims of massacie aie
vaiiously uesciibeu as 'olu men', even 'ueau men alive' (Remaique, pp. S8, 17S). They aie shauows
of theii foimei selves anu unable even to compiehenu the lives they might have liveu without wai.
Bau this novel been wiitten foi a pio wai auuience, these men woulu have founu gieat puipose anu
satisfaction in a meaningful ciusaue in which ueath anu loss weie outweigheu by the iewaius of
gloiious seivice. Insteau of men shown as 'being uiiven against one anothei, anu silently,
uncompiehenuingly, foolishly, obeuiently anu innocently killing one anothei', these men woulu have
unueistoou not only what they weie fighting foi but also felt tiue enmity against those they weie
fighting (Remaique, p. 274). The scene wheie Paul beseeches of the Fienchman he has killeu,
'Foigive me, comiaue, how coulu you be my enemy.' woulu not be possible. Remaique emphasises
the common humanity of all soluieis on all siues anu laments the iecklessness of all the waiiing
nations. Bowevei, a pio wai text woulu paint encounteis with foieign soluieis in way that left the
auuience in no uoubt of the physical anu moial supeiioiity of the ueimans anu the iighteousness of
uestioying the enemy.
Banneu by the Nazis, it is cleai that the political iight weie caieful to ensuie that the ueiman public
weie not exposeu to haiiowing accounts of wai such as !"" $%&'( )* (+' ,'-('.* /.)*(. Such novels
that ieflecteu the giim expeiience of soluieis anu questioneu the competence of goveinment anu
militaiy weie a thieat to futuie wai plans anu a national myth of the viitue of stiuggle. The giaphic

The Socialist politicians who weie foiceu to sign the Tieaty of veisailles became vilifieu as
peipetiating a 'stab in the back' against the ueiman people foi acquiescing to such humiliating
uetail, uoleful setting anu iepiesentative chaiacteis all cieate a ueeply pessimistic view of the
uestiuction of an entiie geneiation foi enus that ulitmately coulu not be justifieu. Although a
fictional account, Remaique's novel speaks tiuths about the natuie of wai anu the effect upon
soluieis. These tiuths weie silenceu anu insteau ieplaceu with images of honoui anu exaltation.
Publicly buineu, peihaps the gieatest tiageuy was not what the book containeu but the fact that its
contents weie censoieu anu its puipose not iealiseu. Peihaps if liteiatuie such as this novel hau
been available to the ueiman people, the gloiious myths of wai that fuelleu young men into enlisting
foi WWII might not have been so convincing oi peisuasive.


Evans Richard. The Coming of the Third Reich. London: Penguin. 2007.
Goethe William J. Review of All Quiet on the Western Front. Poppyfield Literature Quarterly.
October 2009. pp. 87-101.
Remarque Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. London: Vintage. 1996.