Discussion: In the preface to All Quiet on the Western Front, novelist Erich Maria Remarque says “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the way.”
Throughout his novel, Remarque emphasizes the way that war transformed its participants and made it impossible for them to return to normal life. Hence historian Modris Eksteins argues that “All Quiet is more a comment on the postwar mind, on the postwar view of the war, than an attempt to reconstruct the reality of the trench experience” (see his essay “Memory” in Critical Insights: All Quiet on the Western Front, p. 142 — available in Ashhord’s library, through the “Literary Reference Center”). In other words, the novel is about how the memory of war haunts ex-soldiers, but it is also about how the memory of war haunts the broader society.
Discuss the theme of the war’s effect on soldiers. What exactly does war do to soldiers, as Remarque portrays it?
Cite specific passages from the novel to support your interpretation. What is role do war memories play in constructing soldiers’ post-war identities? Once you have a clear understanding of the soldiers’ case, expand your discussion to society in general. How does a culture’s war memories affect collective identity?
3 years ago
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