The Impact Of Historical German Events On Its Citizens

1756 words - 8 pages

History shapes not only the pathway of the future, but the citizens and individuals within each era. The development and growth of Germany in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, directly altered and impacted the lives of the individuals within German society. Historical changes in this time frame are captured by Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Theodor Fontane’s Effi Briest, in which the primary characters of the novel are shaped by the time period in which they live, as well as a significant historical event. In Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, the narrator Paul experiences trauma and a loss of youth as a direct result of his involvement in World War I, while ...view middle of the document...

Due to their involvement in World War I, Paul and his friends have lost their youth; it can never be replaced.
The irreversibility of the war is not only significant in the lives of these men, but mirrors the fate of Germany as a nation. German involvement in World War I is a historical change that alters the course of their history. It can be argued that World War I, and the unfortunate result of the treaty of Versailles on Germany, is significantly responsible for the political and combative history that is to follow in the next twenty years; including World War II years later. World War I forced Paul and his comrades to transform themselves from free-spirited teenagers to warriors on the front. As a whole, the teenagers involved in this war did not have enough time to properly acquire a profession, explore the world, or even settle down. The first job opportunity these teenagers were given was to kill. Throughout the war, each man begins to function on a reactional basis, rather than emotional. The men are unable to transition back to the lives they once led.
World War I was manipulated by the Germans to be a force of unification, nationalism, and patriotism. Not only were individuals united through their common identity as German citizens, but many soldiers developed cross-class friendships that altered German society. Prior to the World War I, German was concentrated on their social hierarchy placing a significant importance on the aristocracy. Throughout All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque describes the development of the friendship between Paul and man named Kat, who is best described as an innovative and crafty man of forty years. After Paul and Kat capture and cook a goose together, Paul notes, “What does he know of me, or I of him? Formerly we should not have had a single thought in common—now we sit with a goose between us and feel in unison, are so intimate that we do not even speak.” The friendship between these two men has developed into a strong bond through the undesirable circumstances of war. Through friendship, the original class of each man loses its significance. This display of cross-class comradery emulates the decrease in the importance of social class during this time in Germany. Nationalism begins to have a higher importance than social standing, and German society is forever united, and forever changed.
Fontane’s Effi Briest is written in the pre-World War I era, in which the aristocracy plays an important role in the lives of Germans. The main character, Effi, marries an older man, Geert von Innstetten, at a young age and loses her sense of youth upon entering this lifestyle. Her loss of youth parallels the experiences Paul has at war in All Quiet on the Western Front. Effi’s immaturity leads her to live a ruined life eventually resulting in an extramarital affair, as well as alienation from her parents and her eventual death. Effi begins the novel becoming wrapped up in the benefits of the...

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