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Like many talented writers, Erich Maria Remarque deliberately uses similes and metaphors in his novel All Quiet on the Western Front. These figures of speech help make the novel more vivid and interesting, and various examples of them appear in Chapter 4 of the book. Among those examples are the following:
SIMILE: “It is a warm evening and the twilight seems like a canopy under whose shelter we feel drawn together.” This imagery of peace and calm helps highlight, by contrast, the emphasis on war and destruction elsewhere in the book.
METAPHOR: “‘Kat, I hear some aspirants for the frying-pan over there.’” By calling geese “aspirants,” the speaker speaks ironically. Obviously the geese have no desire, like people applying for jobs, to achieve the goal this sentence attributes to them. The metaphor in this case not only illustrates irony but also implies humor.
SIMILE: “The gun-emplacements are camouflaged with bushes against aerial observation, and look like a kind of military Feast of the Tabernacles.” Here the simile seems ironic because it compares instruments of death to a religious holiday.
METAPHOR: “We are not, indeed, in the frontline, but only in the reserves, yet in every face can be read: This is the front, now we are within its embrace.” The word “embrace” is another example of irony. We normally think of embraces as loving and welcome, but the embrace of the looming battle is something these men would prefer to avoid.
METAPHOR: “To me the front is a mysterious whirlpool. Though I am in still water far away from its centre, I feel the whirl of the vortex sucking me slowly, irresistibly, inescapably into itself.” This metaphor likens a man-made battlefield to an irresistible and very deadly force of nature. The metaphor implies that the men are pulled into battle in ways they are powerless to resist.
METAPHOR: “An indigent looking wood receives us.” Here a forest is compared to a poverty-stricken person. Presumably the narrator means that the forest seems far from lush and thick with trees. Even nature, it seems, appears to be suffering from the effects of war.
SIMILE: “The last one props itself on its forelegs and drags itself round in a circle like a merry-go-round.” The comparison of a wounded horse dying in pain to a merry-go-round is clearly ironic. Merry-go-rounds are associated with children, innocence, and happiness and therefore seem highly ironic when compared to a suffering, tormented animal.
If these examples are any indication, Remarque uses far more metaphors than similes in Chapter 4. Often, however, he uses both figures of speech to emphasize irony of one sort or another – an appropriate emphasis in a book about a horrific war.
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