“Everyone’s a pacifist between wars. It’s like being a vegetarian between meals.” In the anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, protagonist Paul Baumer is enlisted into the war because of the influence from a schoolmaster. Although this schoolmaster has never been in a war himself and does not realize the emotional, physical, and mental changes soldiers go through he persuades the young schoolboys into going. Before being sent to the front the boys endure the harsh training of Corporal Himmelstoss shortly realizing that the war is not what their teacher had said it be. Sometime after Paul is sent on a seventeen-day leave where he visits his family and towards the end spends some time at a training camp located next to a prison for Russian soldiers. Paul sees them and realizes that they are just like him and does not understand how they can be labeled as enemies when there is no personal conflict or grudges between one another. Throughout the novel, Remarque expresses his belief that war is brutal and unnecessary.
While Remarque believes war to be brutal and unnecessary, people will argue that war has some benefits. War can help with population control, gaining resources, power, and freedom. These are important things that any leader needs to have when running a country. It can also help the economy by creating jobs where people manufacture army uniforms, tanks, guns, and many more weapons. Some may also say that people know what they are getting into enlisting themselves into a war and that it is called a war for a reason but that is not always the case. It is also known that deciding whether we are going to fight in a war and figuring out if the benefits outway the atrocious outcomes is not for the people to decide but for their leaders to decide. Putting trust into your leader to do the right thing is hard when they have never been to war themselves. If any pacifists were to add a comment they would likely argue that these are just things people say to make mass murder justifiable. The before said statement follows along with remarques anti-war beliefs.
All throughout the book remarque showcases his belief on anti-war and reveals how Pauls family is dealing with him being far from home and at war. War not only had an impact on Pauls family but impacted other soldiers families as well. For someone to send their brother, father, or son to war is not easy. Not knowing if they will return causes anxiety, stress, and panic for many people especially the children in the family. For those who do return it may be hard for their family to deal with the person, they have become. In All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul returns as a changed man and finds it hard to talk with his family especially since his mother is sick with cancer and his father does not understand what is really going on in the military. This event not only put stress on Paul himself but onto his family. This is just one of the many brutal impacts that war has on families making it another reason for Remarque to believe that warfare is not right.
When a soldier goes into the war as a young man if he comes out, he comes out as a different person no longer young and innocent but scarred and terrified. This is what happened to Paul and what happens to almost all soldiers. This quote “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” (José Narosky) provides the evidence that no one can go into war and come out unwounded. Whether the damage is physical or not the emotional toll that weighs down on all soldiers can cause Post-traumatic stress disorder. They have to live with this disorder for the rest of their life which in the worst case can also cause them to commit suicide. Remarque shows readers a small portion of the effect that the war had on the soldiers several times throughout the book. One time this is shown is when Paul returns home on his leave. Paul feels emotionally detached from everyone even his own family because they do not understand what he has gone through. He did not bother to tell them what happened because they all had their own opinions and would not understand anyway. This is just one of the effects brought to attention by Remarque in his novel.
Remarque’s novel clearly illustrates the unnecessary and brutal conditions inflicted upon human beings during times of war. Paul Baumer’s journey through the trenches of World War I stand as a testament to the atrocities of war so as to make all aware of just how brutal war can be.