The by Erich Maria Remarque is set in the

The anti-war novel, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” by
Erich Maria Remarque is set in the first world war. Remarque describes some of
the agonising experiences of a young German soldier, Paul Baümer, who is forced
to enlist for the army with his friends by their school master, Kantorek. He
soon changes from an innocent, vulnerable recruit to a broken, hardened veteran.

Remarque utilises several
techniques to effectively explore the theme of the horrors of war through the
vulnerability of the main character.

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Paul’s description of the front makes us aware of how the
protagonist, who was at first an innocent, inexperienced soldier with romantic
notions of war, is vulnerable to damage of himself, through terrifying battle
where he coldly states:


For me the front is like a sinister
whirlpool. Even when you are a long way from its centre, out in its calm
waters, you can still feel its suction pulling you towards it, slowly,
inexorably, meeting little resistance.


The use of this extended image
clearly illustrates how mentally
incapacitated Paul has become for the front has changed him to such an extent
that he cannot ever return to who he was before. This suggests that the horrors
of war have irreversibly traumatised him and this is further reinforced
when Paul returns home but cannot integrate into society again. He coldly
believes, “I should never have come home on leave.” Paul would rather return to
the horror of the front lines
than be safe at home where he can take pleasure in his former activities, like
reading and writing, suggesting he is disconnected from his former self. Paul’s
vulnerability at war has caused him to become isolated and detached from
society, showing a loss of his former personality and character.


Furthermore, at the front Paul
has the support of his fellow soldiers who can comprehend what he is
experiencing and what he feels but when he is home on leave, his mother
questions him on if he is frightened in the war, but he tries to soothe her
fears and declares:

Ah! Mother, Mother! How can it be
that I must part from you? Who else is there that has any claim on me but you?
Here I sit and there you are lying; we have so much to say, and we shall never
say it.

yearns to be an innocent child once more, but the war has altered him, leaving
him pained but unable to share with his mother of the harrowing reality of war, all to
protect her and lessen her worrying about her son. He has lost so much to the war; especially
the close relationship he had with his mother, and his generation with him has
lost their childhood, their aspirations in life and their belief in the war. The
protagonist has lost his youth to the war, at such a young,
vulnerable and impressionable age where he has experienced so little of life,
meaning the horrors of war to
have an even greater toll on him.

Paul is waiting for the fire from the enemy to
cease so that his fellow soldiers can rescue him from the battle,
terror-stricken he waits in a shell hole with the dying enemy soldier he


My hands are white at the
knuckles, I clench them so tightly in my longing for the fire to cease so that
my comrades may come


Paul cannot control his fear, for it is so immense
he has succumbed to it completely. Paul is vulnerable, alone in battle and
completely dependent on his comrades to help him, whilst he must remain there
and suffer:


This is the first time I have
killed with my hands, whom I can see at close hand… every gasp lays my heart
bare. This dying man has time with him, he has an invisible dagger with which
he stabs me: time and my thoughts


Paul feels the emotional torment and pain of
stabbing the soldier, and ignores his war-like animal instincts needed for
survival. He is still overcome with his emotions and thinks too greatly of the
thoughts and feelings of the dying soldier, and how he himself killed this man.

It is unbearable for him. Remarque shows Paul thinking about the humanity of
the soldier which conveys the psychological impact that murdering a man and
having to stay vulnerable in a place of fear has on Paul, for he is frightened
and overcome with guilt.


The novel is unyieldingly moving towards its end
when Remarque vaguely describes Paul’s gas injury, and is ambiguous about Paül’s
two weeks leave and his return to the front. Paul’s last words are:


I am so alone


Emphasising the effects of which the horrors of war
had on the soldiers, and how for three years of fighting Paül and most of his fellow
veteran friends faced death through one of the most horrific terrifying evens
in humanity where some were, “mad with pain” and others were, “shot down before
anyone could go and fetch them.” Paul’s final words describe him vulnerable to
his accelerating emotions of despair, fear and hopelessness leaving him isolated
enough to give up and loose his will to live. The bitter irony of this is how quiet
and calm it was the day of Paul’s death where, “the army report confined itself
to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western front.”


The horrors of war destroyed Paül Baumer leaving
him vulnerable and isolated. Through Paül’s extreme hardships, Remarque described
the horrors of war. Through Paül’s death the devastating events of the book
came to an end. This tied together the main character’s isolation, terror and
vulnerability in the novel “All Quiet on the Western front.”