What is the historical significance of All Quiet on the Western Front?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I tend to think that one of the most historically significant points about the work is that Remarque is literally taking aim at the individuals in the position of power who perpetrated the war without understanding the impact it had on the soldiers.  Consider his opening to the book to demonstrate this point:

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 shells, were destroyed by the war.

For Remarque, his work needed to address the romanticism and the idea that war was "an adventure."  It is for this reason that the book is historically significant. It marked a point in the history of literature where modern war was exposed for the dehumanizing experience it truly was.  In Remarque's work, the voice of the soldier emerges.  In its grittiest, most blunt, and forthcoming manner, the experience of the soldier is revealed.  It is through Remarque's work where one realizes how catastrophic the war truly was on the individuals cursed to fight it.  In Paul's narrative, one fully understands the purpose of the war in destroying the hopes of the youth.  The fact that the book presents such a bleak vision of war is where its historical significance is felt the most.  The book offers a significant volley in the continual battle between affirming life in the midst of perpetual war and bloodshed.


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