How is loss portrayed in All Quiet on the Western Front?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Generally, loss in the form of death is portrayed without emotion. When Paul's close friend Muller dies, he simply reports, "Muller is dead. Someone shot him point-blank in the stomach with a Verey light. He lived for half an hour, quite conscious, and in terrible pain." Other accounts of death are related in a similarly detached tone that suggests a level of numbness. Ultimately, the real loss portrayed in All Quiet on the Western Front is not death, but the loss of innocence and humanity on the part of the survivors after witnessing the carnage. "There is something worse than death" in war, Remarque claims, "and that is survival." Paul's most emotive passages are when he ponders the losses he and his comrades have suffered, and not in terms of lives lost.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.

Even those who, unlike Paul, survived the war, lost their youth and their faith in the societies that sent them off to fight.


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