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Literary devices such as simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia, and metonymy help create the fog of war in Chapters 8 and 9.
A literary device can be almost anything that is used to describe and add detail to a piece of writing. For example, a literary device might include figurative language or sound devices.
Let’s consider some examples of figurative language. Figurative language might include a comparison, such as the simile in Chapter 8. A simile compares two things indirectly, using “like” or “as” to make the comparison. Look how Paul compares the sand to something generated in a laboratory.
Looked at so closely one sees the fine sand is composed of millions of the tiniest pebbles, as clear as if they had been made in a laboratory. (Ch. 8)
Another simile is used a few lines later, when he describes the trees changing color and says that the shadow moves “like a ghost” and compares the Russian prisoners to Saint Bernard dogs. These similes allow the reader to picture images very well. This mental picture, called imagery, is what makes the writing come alive.
Another literary device is repetition. Repetition is the process of repeating something for effect. In this case, Remarque describes the Russian prisoners very effectively through the use of repeating the word “broad.”
It is strange to see these enemies of ours so close up. They have faces that make one think--honest peasant faces, broad foreheads, broad noses, broad mouths, broad hands, and thick hair. (Ch. 8)
Though Paul has emphasized how the prisoners have gone through the garbage like dogs, looking for whatever might be left there, this description humanizes them. The reader knows that Paul does not understand the enemy, and struggles with coming face to face with them in this way.
Moving on to Chapter 9, in addition to similes, you can also find metaphors. A metaphor is different from a simile because it does not make an indirect comparison. It will not use “like” or “as,” but instead will say something is something else. Look at the way Paul describes his great fear during Chapter 9 when he is under attack, with the metaphor of a wave.
But immediately the wave floods over me anew, a mingled sense of shame, of remorse, and yet at the same time of security. I raise myself up a little to take a look round. (Ch. 9)
This helps Paul describe his strong emotions, and helps the reader experience this too. Other metaphors include using a metaphor as a verb, such as “snake my way forward” and “[minute] after minute trickles away” and “he has an invisible dagger with which he stabs me” (Ch. 9).
Finally, when you really want to describe something in the extreme, only metonymy will do. Metonymy is a literary device when you replace something with a part of it, by referring to it by only part of it. In this example, Paul refers to himself by his smallest part—a speck.
I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness;--I belong to them and they to me… (Ch. 9)
It is almost as if Paul is trying to hide by making himself small, referring to himself as only a speck of existence. It is a powerful literary device because it reminds the reader how small and alone Paul is, and what a small part he plays in the war as a whole.
Another literary device that is used in these two chapters is onomatopoeia, which is a sound device. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that are spelled as they sound. Words like “banging,” “creeping” and “clanging” are used, as well as “gurgling.” These sound images create additional insight for the reader into what is going on in the story, and help the reader understand what Paul is going through.
All of these techniques make Paul’s experiences with war fresh and highlight his terror and vulnerability. They remind the reader where he is suffering, and bring the horror and confusion of war to life.
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