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All Quiet on the Western Front, by Enrich Maria Remarque and Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut - views and ideas of war.

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Today, some people misunderstand war because they easily see the ideals aspects of war, patriotism and honour in movies or some war novels. Therefore, the actual meaning of war has to be revealed. All Quiet on the Western Front1, by Enrich Maria Remarque and Slaughterhouse-Five2, by Kurt Vonnegut are very different in terms of their location in history and location on the map. However, if one looks at the important events, and character realizations and reactions, it becomes clear that the two novels share a common perception of war; war leads to the inevitable destruction of man. Both stories deal with the horror of war that has a powerful negative impact on the characters. They also reveal the resulting human breakdowns that often result from experiencing the horror in the battlefield. Furthermore, both novels present war's another destructive aspect, which makes the characters unable to function in a normal way. As illustrated in All Quiet on the Western Front and Slaughterhouse-Five, experiencing the horror of war has a tremendous destructive impact on the soldiers. The best place to begin in a discussion of the horrors of war and the affect of it would be to look at the incidents that exposed the characters to the shock of war. In the case of Paul Baumer, the protagonist in All Quiet on the Western Front, he acknowledges the shocking reality of war before he even goes to see the battlefield. First he is caught up in the excitement of German nationalism in World War I. Like many of his peers Paul sees the war as an adventure, but before he even sees the battlefield, the excitement is dashed. Paul and his comrades are trained by the fierce Corporal Himmelstoss. Much of what they learn from Corporal Himmelstoss is unexpected. Amongst other things, Paul learns, "that what matters is not the mind but the boot brush, not intelligence but the system, not freedom but drill. ...read more.


In the case of Paul in All Quiet on the Western Front, he and one of his closest friends, Kropp during the war, are wounded by a falling shell while they evacuate a village. Kropp has been wounded very close to his knee and resolves to commit suicide if his leg has to be amputated. Paul's leg is broken and his arm is wounded: I take a look at myself. My trousers are bloody and my arm, too. Albert binds up my wound with his field dressing...The pain increases. The bandages burn like fire. We drink and drink, one glass of water after another.12 This is in fact Paul's first time being wounded, so he is very shocked that he first cannot feel the pain until it has increased. Paul and Kropp are transferred to a hospital where they see so many people suffering from various injuries: poison gas injuries, blindness, amputations, and so on. After all, Paul realizes that what war costs to soldiers is physical their breakdowns or death. On the same note, in Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy also suffers from a physical breakdown. Though Billy does not suffer from an external physical injury, one of his internal organs is ruined by the war, "Billy usually did not drink much, because the war had ruined his stomach."13 Knowing that the war had ruined Billy's stomach, it is easily seen what the food supply in the war would have been like. In the war, the chances to receive real food and relax are so few that one can easily be lack of nutrition and eventually deteriorate physically. Also, soldiers are so starved and hungry for proper food that they can actually risk their lives to acquire it. While the war destroys the characters physically, it also causes them to have emotional breakdowns. In the beginning of All Quiet on the Western Front, Kemmerich, one of Paul's classmate and comrades in the war, is near death. ...read more.


Though disassociating himself with human emotions, such as grief and guilt helps him to survive in the front23, when he returns from war, it seems almost impossible for him to get back into the normal life that he used to live. Similarly, in Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy develops his own, but a different kind of survival strategy from Paul's: Pilgrim can not find a way to cope with the death and destruction, so he creates the "Tralfamadorians". The Tralfamadorians are an alien species that Billy claims abduct him... With this new knowledge of time, the Tralfamadorians gave Billy the ability to become "unstuck" in time. This means that Billy is free to travel to any point in his life at any time without control.24 According to the quote, it seems that Billy may be hallucinating about his experiences with the Tralfamadorians as a way to escape a world destroyed by war. He seems to know that the effects of the war would immobilize him. This highlights how deeply the war has affected Billy's life. As the more often he tries to escape from the reality of the war, the more he feels unable to deal with it and becomes dysfunctional in the society. In brief, experiencing the horror of the war and the resulting human breakdowns, the characters become unable to function normally in society. Unable to deal with the reality in their lives, therefore developing their own survival strategies to get away from the harsh reality of the war, they become dysfunctional in the society. War leads man to the absolute destruction. To sum up briefly, war influence absolutely ruins man. It has been found that both characters, Paul and Billy, are exposed to the horror on the battlefield, which lead them to have a shock and the destroyed innocence, as well as the changed perception of war. Then, they undergo the human breakdowns that often result from experiencing the horror of war. Furthermore, both characters become unable to function in a normal way. ...read more.

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