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What elements can be compared/contrasted between All Quiet on the Western Front to...

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lyd-wil | Honors

Posted May 25, 2013 at 4:26 PM via web

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What elements can be compared/contrasted between All Quiet on the Western Front to "Soldier's Home" by Ernest Hemingway?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM (Answer #1)

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While it is often a challenge to compare/contrast a lengthy work with a short story, there are certain areas of theme and characterization that can bear comparative analysis.  One such theme is so famously expressed by Thomas Wolfe in his novel, You Can't Go Home Again

You can't go back home to your family, back home to ....  a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile...back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake,..,away from all the strife and conflict of the world, ...back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but... are changing all the time--back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.

Certainly, both Paul Baumer and Krebs desire to have peace and simplicity when they come home, but sadly they realize that they "can't go home again"; for, it is impossible return to what they were before experiencing the horrors and disillusionment of war, and their parents do not understand the changes in them, especially the detachment that characterizes them. In Chapter Six, Paul remarks that he and his fellow shoulders are "benumbed"--

We have lost all feeling for one another.  We can hardly control ourselves when our glance lights on the form of some other man. We are insensible, dead men....

We could never regain the old intimacy...We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial--I believe we are lost.

Likewise, Hemingway's anti-hero Krebs is part of a "lost generation." When, for instance, he returns home, like Paul, he cannot "regain the old intimacy" with scenes from before he has gone to war. His mother wants him to "settle down to work" and she treats him like a boy, but Krebs feels detached and benumbed.

Thematically, the focus of All Quiet on the Western Front is broader than that of the theme of "Soldier's Home." Whereas the the focal point of Hemingway's story is Krebs's relationship with his family, especially his mother, Remarque's themes span the relationship of the individual with the machinery of war, technology and military procedures, and the relationships of men in wartime, especially friendship. 

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