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All Quiet on the Western Front: On the Anaylisis of Writing Style

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Pick up. All Quiet on the Western Front. Open. Flip one, two, three pages. ONE. “We are at rest five miles behind the front…” This is how my reading of All Quiet on the Western Front began. Immediately, I was mildly surprised at this point that a war novel began with a serene setting, true to the title. I was soon captured by Erich Maria Remarque’s distinct style and the insightfulness fixed into the entirety of the novel.
Later into the story, I was again taken aback to read multiple delineated passages concerning poplar trees and nature. Figurative language and stylistic devices contribute to passages of overwhelming effect; I am still amazed at the power of the former soldier’s words – as smooth and picturesque as his contemporaries. Remarque uses a roguish sense of humor and suggestive language to overcome the enforced censorship of his decades. In a heated conversation with Tjaden, Himmelstoss asks if he will obey his orders; Tjaden replies with what Remarque says is “the well-known classical phrase.” When communicating with the French women Paul notes the men will bring them bread “and other tasty bits too”. Soon, similar subjects have become uncomfortable. Neither Paul nor Albert can explain to a nurse in professional terms Bäumer’s need to use the ‘latrine’. The author’s style is remarkably poetic. After particularly congealing events, Remarque writes much like a refrain: “Monotonously the lorries sway, monotonously come the calls, monotonously falls the rain.” Again at Paul’s farewell to his mother, “Ah! Mother, Mother!” is returned to as the central thought of the ‘verses’. The author also writes certain passages as odes; he proclaims “Earth with thy folds, and hollows, and holes… O Earth, thou grantest us the great resisting surge of new-won life.”

Seeing as the book was written by a World War I veteran, it is expected that the novel should be insightful. However, the depth to which the mental and physical states of soldiers are discussed is not typical. The author evinces the true nature of war. In fact, before the novel begins, there is a note that this novel is not to represent a confession or adventure of any sort. Remarque takes no precaution to censor such descriptions as when describing the trouble of owning a sawbayonet. He tells of some men they found “whose noses were cut off and their eyes poked out … their mouths and noses were stuffed with sawdust so that they suffocated.” The company comes across a desolate landscapes and sees a body, and “where the arm wounds are, the earth is black with blood. Underfoot the leaves are scratched up as though the man had been kicking.” The author also tells of struggles in the trenches and behind the front lines. In the trenches, the men contain an omnipresent panic sparking in one soldier and then rats consuming their bread rations. Far from the action, Paul deliberates on how to describe Kemmerich’s death to his mother. At this time, he fights the growing want to stay home and die with his mother.

TWELVE. Read. Flip. Read, read. Flip. “…as though almost glad the end had come.” Close. Now I sit, absorbing the entire tale. The start and end of the novel are calm enough, but I will always remember the tragedies in between. Remarque has created a uniquely beautiful novel of incessant contrast from warfare and memoir stereotypes.





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