Remarque’s anti-war novel tapped into the global sorrow and sense of nationalism created by World War I. His inspiration stemmed from his own time spent as a German soldier. War novels before All Quiet on the Western Front tended to romanticize war, as well as emphasize patriotism, nationalism, and glory. Remarque refutes this tradition by exposing its meaningless violence of war. “While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded dying. While they taught that duty to one's country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger” (64). Dying for one’s country is the greatest sense of nationalism, however this novel argues that there is never a just cause for war. Remarque characterizes Paul Baumer as an expression of his own political standpoint of opposition to nationalism, a major “ism” of the twentieth century.
Nationalism played a valuable role in the twentieth century and is arguably one of the main ...view middle of the document...
He was persuaded to enlist at the age 18 and spent a total of six weeks on the Western Front before being injured and sent home. Remarque documented with great clarity accurate details of World War I that the rest of the world had never been made aware. All Quiet on the Western Front was banned in Poland for being pro-German as well as in Nazi Germany for its negative portrayal of war. This novel realistically portrays the conditions under which soldiers lived and fought, circumstances which were both mentally and emotionally harmful. Also, Polish and German authorities did not permit Remarque's expose on war because it criminalized war and shunned nationalism.
Remarque writes of many moral and ethical dilemmas with which he conveys his opinion of war. When the main character, Paul Baumer, enters the war he is excited for the opportunity to defend his country. Throughout the novel war sways his ethical opinions and by the end Paul considers himself a pacifist. At one point Baumer says “We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from the true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left” (64). The image of a glorified war was the ideal method to draft soldiers into battle throughout the twentieth century, Remarque saw past that, he believed the benefits of war were temporary but the evil lives on forever.
Many soldiers saw World War I as a a chance to express their nationalism and pride for their country. Once in war the soldiers began to question the values of war, Remarque’s short participation in World War I resulted in a total change in his beliefs. He became angry with his country for putting him through pointless violence, and became an anti nationalist. Remarque exposed war and nationalism for what it truly is, giving the public a new view on nationalism. This view was radical for this time and government authorities were not pleased with the its influence on citizens. Despite obliteration of the physical book the message is still prevalent today.