What are the characteristics of a “true” war story, specifically in All Quiet on the Western Front?

As seen in All Quiet on the Western Front, the characteristics of a "true" war story involve depicting the horrors of war in all their gruesome reality. Another characteristic involves pointing out the absurdities that result from warfare.

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Although it is a work of fiction, All Quiet on the Western Front exhibits many truthful elements. Remarque does not pull any punches when describing the conditions of war. This story depicts the senseless inhumanity of warfare. It shows how young men who are full of promise are stripped of their humanity and compelled to witness and perform acts that are unthinkable in peacetime. The main character, Paul, watches all his comrades die needless deaths before he befalls the same fate. This story stands in stark contrast to many other war stories that are full of heroic actions and tales of glory. Perhaps what makes a war story a "true" war story is that it does not depict warfare as anything other than it truly is. Tim O'Brien, the author of The Things They Carried, defines a true war story as one that does not moralize or give depictions through generalizations or abstractions. Rather, the story reports things just as they are.

What also makes a war story more truthful is that it does not try to simplify things. War is full of absurdities. These often may seem like fiction, but the conditions of war often result in the oddest circumstances. The very first chapter of All Quiet on the Western Front involves a ridiculous and morbidly comical argument between soldiers and a cook over feeding them the rations meant for the dead. Including strange but believable episodes that could only occur in a war makes these stories more "true."

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