War “has transformed us into unthinking animals in order to give us the weapon of instinct—it has reinforced us with dullness, so that we do not go to pieces before the horror, which would overwhelm us if we had clear, conscious thought—it has awakened in us the sense of comradeship, so that we escape the abyss of solitude—it has lent us the indifference of wild creatures, so that in spite of all, we perceive the positive in every moment, and store it up as a reserve against the onslaught of nothingness. Thus we live a closed, hard existence of the utmost superficiality, and rarely does an incident strike out a spark. But then unexpectedly a flame of grievous and terrible yearning flares up.”
Scene two: Overview of the book
All Quiet on the Western Front is possibly the greatest war novel of the 20th century. It is not just a book, but a heart wrenching tale of Paul Baumer's life in trenches that forces emotion from its readers. The story begins with Paul and co talking about how wonderful the rations are. Food plays a major role in their life, as it is a necessity to most, but a matter of life and death to the soldiers. People would be surprised if they were served a meal that dainty, but to soldiers, getting any food is good. As the war continues, the men get more and more comfortable with the little amount of provisions that they are allotted, and soon grow accustomed to the smaller things in life.
Scene Three: Your Narrative: Your Personal Essay
As I was sitting in class only half paying attention, Mr. Fitz told us that we needed to get the book all quiet on the western front. I remembered my brother telling me about the book, and how gruesome and gory it was. Not being one to handle a lot of graphic imagery, I was rather timid to jump straight into the book. When we first started reading the book, it started out much less exciting than I anticipated. I thought that it would start out similar to saving private Ryan, where if you didn't watch the first five minutes, you wouldn't be scarred for life and wouldn't miss much besides a lot of blood. Meanwhile it started out with the men eating and taking leisurely poops in grassy fields. While this was quite the preferred beginning, it reflected back on the book, showing that even in the darkest of times, the soldiers could look on the bright side. While they were pessimistic, they did keep in mind that at any moment, they too could be killed, and looked at this not in fear, but in remorse. Paul returns home after getting an injury on his foot that would put him out for a few weeks, and when he does it is not in positivity. He is suddenly speechless around his mother who is dying from cancer and often finds himself thinking back to the war, his friends, and how quiet it is. When he goes back, he ironically feels at home and is happy to see his friends once again. This was one of the things that shocked me most about life in the trenches. Paul changed from being a normal person, to choosing close to no food and shelter over spending time with his family.
Scene Four: Analysis of All Quiet on the Western Front.
Paul merely wants this man to understand that he is a friend and that while he was doing what had to be done, or else his life be put at risk.
“Then he opens his eyes. He must have heard me, for he gazes at me with a look of utter terror. The body lies still, but in the eyes there is such an extraordinary expression of fright that for a moment I think they have power enough to carry the body off with them. Hundreds of miles away with one bound. The body is still perfectly still, without a sound, the gurgle has ceased, but the eyes cry out, yell, all the life is gathered together in them for one tremendous effort to flee, gathered together there in a dreadful terror of death, of me.”
Remarque is trying to say
“The silence spreads. I talk and must talk. So I speak to him and to say to him: “Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if you would be sensible too. But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony—Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Take twenty years of my life, comrade, and stand up—take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now.”
Scene Five: The Takeaways.
How are Remarques’s ideas still valid today? What are the takeaways you got from this experience? (1-2 minutes)
What he's saying is still true: people can feel empathy for someone who is supposed to be an enemy because on the other side, it's the same person as you fighting for the same thing, what they believe in. War has essentially not changed, similar to the game of chess. There are merely two sides that are exactly the same, fighting for the same reason; to win. While this may seem pointless, it is just another strategy game, but at the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box. We are all equal.
Scene Six: The Conclusion.
• Give your viewer some final thoughts to ponder—and maybe even end with an excerpt from All Quiet on the Western Front. (1 minute)
What if we were all put into Paul's shoes, having to know someone's name, and never being able to erase that from your memory. “But I hesitate to open it. In it is the book with his name. So long as I do not know his name perhaps I may still forget him, time will obliterate it, this picture. But his name, it is a nail that will be hammered into me and never come out again. It has the power to recall this forever, it will always come back and stand before me.”