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Jünger and Remarque: View on World War I

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Jünger and Remarque: View on World War I

Remarque and Jünger's perspective on war are very interesting as Remarque has focused more on how the war is and why it came to be while Jünger's view is mainly on his personal experience in the war along with connecting his services during war as a form of patriotism. While both of them talk about the brutality taking place in the frontlines, the way they have chosen to portray the pictures in the frontlines are completely different, Jünger portrays participation in war as patriotic, honorable and focuses on how he and others have fought in the war whereas Remarque focuses on the mental aspects of how a common soldier might be viewing the war as.

From Jünger's memoir one is able to easily see how the majority of the people thought the reason for war to be, which was, protection of the fatherland, honor, fighting for their friends and family, it was basically in order to protect or secure their family and country. People signing up for war mainly did it for these reasons, Jünger being one of them. Majority of the soldiers probably didn't think much beyond that, as Jünger, they considered war to be something honorable. And justice being on their side, they fought battles from trenches to trenches in order to secure the frontlines and fighting any enemies they come across as it was either the enemy or them that gets to live. Most were just following orders, to go from one frontlines to another as required or ordered by the superiors in the military. Being selfless and fighting for a cause which went beyond oneself, such as ideals of one's nation, repelling the enemies that were threatening their country. Above all the call for heroes to come along and defend their country, who wouldn't have their hearts blazing for such causes and ready to sacrifice their lives for it?

As for Remarque he points it out in his novel that the reason for war isn't as simple as it seemed to be. In the novel we can see the characters discussing of this issue when Tjarden questions the cause of war, the answer they come up with is that whatever they are fighting for is the reason their enemies are fighting too. So it definitely cannot be something such as defending their countries, since for that to be true at least one of them has to be lying, otherwise it wouldn't make sense for everyone to be defending against an enemy while there isn't even an attacker. They also end up talking about if the war could have been avoided if Kaiser had said "No" to the war and again the answer we get is "No, it's not possible unless all of the parties involved had said No". It's ironic that not only Kaiser doesn't want the war even all the people don't want to go to war but still the war ends up happening. I would like to point out that while people may not have wanted the war to happen and even the Kaiser may not have wanted but the decisions that Kaiser and the other leaders made were sure to lead to it. Kaiser, including other leaders of their countries, had wanted to expand their territories and take over occupied lands which had no other result aside from a war taking place. And as for the common populace they had just ended up believing what the government proclaimed and ended up going along with the war. Even though, initially, they didn't want it but were more than eager to be part of it near the beginning of the war, as one can see that by the amount of people signing up to take part in the war.

In Jünger's memoir, the experiences he has noted are mainly about the battle that took place and one can see from this that he is someone who loves to battle, if put crudely, or at least doesn't shy away from it and is more than happy to return to the frontlines as soon as possible whenever injured or decommissioned from the battlefield. At least from what I can infer from his memoir was that, initially, he was likewise as most of his comrades were shocked and horrified with the deaths occurring around him but gradually became numb to it and then moving on to being frenzied and not being afraid of death at all and moving along the battlefield to kill and take over enemy occupied areas. He also does note few times about how they had forgotten even about having to eat while being in the heat of the battlefield but most of the things he mainly talks about are what he does in battle, shooting someone, getting shot, or comrades getting shot or blown by the artilleries etc. He does talk about his living conditions once in a while, including the lack of ration compared to the enemies but he doesn't emphasize much in this regard. So it's hard to say if the living conditions weren’t as bad for him as compared to other soldiers or that it was really bad but it just didn't stand out to him as much as the battles that he participated in did.

In the novel, Remarque on the other hand gives us an idea of the living conditions in the trenches. He talks about how the shelling from the enemies that goes on for long periods of time and the lack of ration and being unable to get the supplies. He goes into details such as members of the unit trying to get to supply area but not being able to get to them because of the shells being rained down upon the trenches. Not to mention the rats gnawing on the breads that the soldiers have, the situation was so bad that the soldiers had tried hanging breads by a rope or even wrapping the breads in plastic, so that the breads wouldn't get eaten by rats overnight but that being of no use. He also goes on to talk about how rats would even go over sleeping persons head to get to the bread, and the soldiers getting angered or irritated easily because of the bad living conditions. It wasn't just about not having enough food or living cooped up in a small area, one of the key thing that stands out, as he portrays in the novel, was the lack of quietness, as every moment spent in the battlefield is accompanied by the sound of artilleries going off. Remarque gives us some details on how the soldiers were in the frontlines, the experiences he portrays in the novel talks about new recruits being claustrophobic and trying to run out from dugouts as they had been cooped in a small space for long periods of time and having to even forcefully restrain them so that they wouldn't run out and end up getting killed, which does happen to one of the soldiers who ends up running out when the shelling was still going on. At least from the novel, one can see that the living conditions in the trenches was something that had left a significant impact in Remarque’s mind during his time in the war.

Jünger describes death on battlefield as being something normal, which is obviously true, since this is what war is about, deaths and destruction and nothing more and nothing less. He was just numb to this feeling since it was happening all around him and the only solace in all this for him was that to know that they didn't die in vain and they died fighting for their country. One of the reasons for him battling it out there in the battlefield and never backing down was so to make it so that the soldiers who died here mattered and made a difference in the battle, and to do that obviously the battle or the war had to be won, so he kept on fighting for that belief. The question of course remains though; the soldier did fight the battles believing it to be for the country but was it really the case? At least one way to look about it would be that the rich and powerful people in authority had disagreements about rights and territories and that was it, the price paid was not them instead it was the country and its people. Did the people actually need the territory? It was more about the rulers than the people.

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