All quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel
set in World War I, centers around the changes wrought by the war on
one young German soldier. During his time in the war, Remarque's
protagonist, Paul Baumer, changes from a rather innocent Romantic to a
hardened and somewhat caustic veteran. More importantly, during the
course of this metamorphosis, Baumer disaffiliates himself from those
societal icons-parents, elders, school, religion-that had been the
foundation of his pre-enlistment days. This rejection comes about as a
result of Baumer's realization that the pre-enlistment society simply
does not understand the reality of the Great War. His new society,
then, becomes the Company, his fellow trench soldiers, because that is
a group which does understand the truth as Baumer has experienced it.
Remarque demonstrates Baumer's disaffiliation from the
traditional by emphasizing the language of Baumer's
pre- and post-enlistment societies. Baumer either can not, or chooses
not to, communicate truthfully with those representatives of his
pre-enlistment and innocent days. Further, he is repulsed by the banal
and meaningless language that is used by members of that society. As
he becomes alienated from his former, traditional, society, Baumer
simultaneously is able to communicate effectively only with his
military comrades. Since the novel is told from thefirst person point
of view, the reader can see how the words Baumer speaks are at
variance with his true feelings. In his preface to the novel, Remarque
maintains that “a generation of men … were destroyed by the war”
(Remarque, All Quiet Preface). Indeed, in All Quiet on the Western
Front, the meaning of language itself is, to a great extent,
Early in the novel, Baumer notes how his elders had been facile
with words prior to his enlistment. Specifically, te…