Compare All Quiet on the Western Front to "Soldier's Home" based on the following directions:
Literary Strategies --Comment on the use of narrative presentation, imagery, symbolism, irony, or other literary devices.
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Having both experienced the horrors of World War I, part of "a lost generation" who cannot "go home again" to what they were before the War, Paul Baumer and Harold Krebs are tragically displaced.
Remarque himself stated that his purpose in writing All Quiet on the Western Front was "to report on a generation that was destroyed by the war—even when it escaped the shells." Likewise, Hemingway directed his story toward describing the disillusionment of soldiers and the senselessness of war.
- Narrative Presentation
In his novel, Remarque juxtaposes terrible war scenes with peaceful interludes of the young men, who generate a camaraderie with their classmates and friends. While the young men feel a sense of hopelessness in battle and its murderous damage to both heart and body, they are yet able to enjoy talk and laugh with one another, cooking meals, and cavorting with starving French girls. This juxtaposition of contraries depicts the unreality of life in the killing fields of mustard gas and torn bodies and screaming war horses staged against deceptively peaceful moments.
As a much shorter narrative, "Soldier's Home" has a single focus: the return of Harold Krebs to his small Oklahoma town, a return that is "much too late." Thus, the tone of "Soldier's Home" has little that is optimistic, in contrast to Remarque's narrative.
In "Soldier's Home" the imagery of the grown-up girls depicts them with short hair of "girls that were fast"; they also all wear "sweaters and shirt waists with round Dutch collars." This image of the girls is impersonal as their "appeal to him was not very strong." Further, Krebs sees a "pattern" as the girls walk on the other side of the street" from him.
When Harold's aproned mother brings in breakfast to him one morning, it is a traditional American breakfast of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. But, Krebs looks at it and sees only the bacon fat that hardens on his plate as his mother talks to him. Thus, the images of his past now mean little to him in his detachment.
For Paul Baumer, the images of nature, such as the poplar trees where he and friends sought solace when truant from school, have become tainted. The earth of the battlefield, once a verdant, is scarred and abused as Paul crawls along it in spasms of "animal fear" as there is the "flicker of gunfire" and the "rattle of machine gun." But, as a French soldier jumps into the trench with Paul, he stabs him in fear. Later, he feels guilt for his action and is tortured by the "gurgling" and soft "gasping." Other images that convey the brutality of war are those of men's arms grasping the wire fence, arms that have been wrenched from his body. Employing more imagery, Paul describes himself in Chapter Nine as a "shuddering speck of existence."
In All Quiet on the Western Front, there are two symbols.The boots of Kemmerlich, who loses his leg and later dies, are passed to another, signifying that man is not as sturdy as the boots. Also, the men who want the boots have become more concerned about protecting themselves than about the dying man, thus displaying the desensitizing of men in war. This is why Paul comments, "We are lost." The symbolic river represents life and cleansing as they swim naked and are "reborn" to natural delignts.
In "Soldier's Home," Kreb ironically prefers the make-believe of playing pool, and watching his sister play baseball because these games distract him from a reality about which he has lied and is ashamed.
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