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Compare the Presentation of Attitudes towards the War in 'Regeneration' and 'All Quiet on the Western Front'

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Introduction

Compare the Presentation of Attitudes towards the War in 'Regeneration' and 'All Quiet on the Western Front' Regeneration is an anti-war novel, reflecting the issues and the concerns in wartime Britain. All Quiet on the Western Front is also an influential anti-war novel and an important chronicle of World War 1. Both are historical fiction set near the end of the war, 1917-1918. The two texts explore similar themes in condemning the war. Remarque's novel (All Quiet on the Western Front) is a profound statement against war, focusing especially on the ravaging effects of war on the humanity of soldiers. Similarly, Barker (author of Regeneration) offers realistic detail of many abominable war scenes, dwelling upon the destruction that war wreaks upon men's minds. These details comprise a large portion of the novel. In All Quiet on the Western Front, through the narrative of Paul B´┐Żumer, a young German soldier, there are constant attacks on the romantic ideals of warfare. The novel dramatizes the disjunction between high minded rhetoric about patriotism and honour, and the actual horror of trench warfare. Remarque continually stresses that the soldiers are not fighting with the abstract ideals of patriotic spirit in mind; they are fighting for their survival. Nothing in this novel makes the actual experience of war look attractive. The overriding theme of All Quiet on the Western Front is the terrible brutality of war, which informs every scene in the novel. ...read more.

Middle

Remarque portrays the overall effect of these conditions as a crippling overload of panic and despair. The only way for soldiers to survive is to disconnect themselves from their feelings, suppressing their emotions and accepting the conditions of their lives. In Remarque's view, this emotional disconnection has a hugely destructive impact on a soldier's humanity. Paul, for instance, becomes unable to imagine a future without the war and unable to remember how he felt in the past. He also loses his ability to speak to his family. Soldiers no longer pause to mourn fallen friends and comrades. 'we cannot burden ourselves with feelings which...though they may be ornamental enough in peacetime, would be out of place here. Kemmerich is dead, Haie Westhus is dying...Meyer is dead...it is a damnable business, but what has it to do with us now-we live.' (All Quiet on the Western Front, Chapter 7) When Kemmerich (a fellow comrade) is on his deathbed, at the beginning of the novel, the most pressing question among his friends is who will inherit his boots. Among the living soldiers, however, Remarque portrays intense bonds of loyalty and friendship that spring up as a result of the shared experience of war. These feelings are the only romanticized element of the novel and are virtually the only emotions that preserve the soldiers' fundamental humanity. In Regeneration, the emotional repression of soldiers is also explored. ...read more.

Conclusion

Graves's response is important because it reveals a complex attitude toward war and protest, one shaped by a traditional English public school education and traditional values. Although Graves agrees with Sassoon that the war is wrong, he cannot condone Sassoon's method of protest. He believes that when one agrees to fight for one's country, one is bound by an unalterable contract. Graves's words are based upon traditions of duty and honour, concepts that have been taught to the English people, and especially to the English upper classes, for centuries. Graves cannot imagine anything worth risking one's honour for. Rivers, however, sceptically draws Graves's distinction into question, asking whether one does not have a duty to his beliefs as well as to his contract. This central conflict, this question, remains unresolved in the novel. Ultimately, Regeneration asks us to question for ourselves the large concepts of duty, sanity, and war. Barker, with her insightful and direct writing style, succeeds in presenting a microcosm of madness that prevails during war. Regeneration recounts many vivid war scenes, and without drawing conclusions, effectively instils a feeling of vexation against the war into the reader. In presenting his grimly realistic version of a soldier's experience, Remarque strips away the typical romanticism of war narrative in All Quiet on the Western Front, providing an unrelenting portrayal of carnage and gore. It is a novel of social protest; totally rejecting the war and nationalistic policies; and in doing so, successfully depicts the many horrors of World War 1. 1 ...read more.

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