Struggles of War

10 Dec

A while back I wrote this comparison essay  of All Quiet on the Western Front and the book of poems Here, Bullet for my  war literature class. The essay focused on the struggles psychologically face in war.

 

In both the novel All Quiet on the Western Front and the poem Here, Bullet, there is a sense of discomfort within the main character or characters of each story.  While these stories take place in vastly different times and places, the characters remain true to this idea despite being from different countries. This paper will discuss these truly humanizing moments of realization that strike the characters of both these stories.

In all quiet on the western front, Paul Baumer is struggling to survive as he is separated from his infantry, and to make matters worse the enemy is firing his direction. Not having any way to protect himself he jumps into a ditch. While in the ditch he worries that a soldier from the enemy side will come into the ditch for cover and Baumer will have no choice but to kill the man instantly (chap 9, 220). This is exactly what happens, as Paul stabs the man repeatedly until he is dead.  As a result of his actions he begins to concern himself with this man’s life back home and how he probably had a lover waiting back home for him to whom he always wrote letters.

Paul realizes that this man is just as innocent as himself and that they really have more in common then one would imagine for enemies to have. Paul is so affected by this man’s death that he feels he is indebted to him. This concept is similarly represented in the poem Body Bags in the compilation of poems in Here, Bullet. It reflects how miserable war can be. It is the dead corpses of the people killed that realize the turbulence of war when the question why they have blood on their scalps (body bags,14). Similar to in All Quiet on the Western Front a dead corpse is playing the antagonist to soldiers. There is a sense in both these stories that soldiers and ordinary civilians are realizing the hard way that the violence of war is rather excessive and unnecessary for the most part.

Another similar realization of the unnecessary suffering that comes with war is in chapter 8 of All Quiet on the Western Front, when Paul returns to boot camp and then is sent off to guard Russian prisoners (chap8, 192). Paul becomes uncomfortable with his position because he imagines these Russian prisoners having families back home like his own and also realizes that these men are innocent yet are being locked up against their own will because of the commands of a few leaders who wanted war and as a result these fellows are POW’s. An example in Here, Bullet of suffering brought on by war is in the poem Sadiq (pg 57). In this poem, the thoughts of those who fight war are present. To Summarize the poem’s theme is that killing should break your heart. These two pieces of literature really exemplify a couple of ways in which suffering afflicts soldiers.

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