Paul and the enemy- Essay
In war the soldiers have to fight for their country, they fight with their comrades and against their enemies. In All Quiet On The Western Front from Erich Maria Remarque, Paul, the narrator of the novel, makes these experiences every day. But he gets to a point of view, where he asks himself what the difference is between the soldiers of the different countries and about the human being of them. While he can discover similarities between them and himself and notices the identity of the enemy he is now able to see the humanity in the enemies.
During Pauls stay in the training camp (chapter 8) he is always confronted with the Russians. While spending so much time next to them, he gets known to them in a more personal way and sees that they are similar as every other soldier, even from another country.
Paul goes trough a development of perception while he guards over the Russians. First they are more or less just objects for Paul and???separated by wire fence???(189). They are very near to each other, but the wire fence claims a uncomfortable, cool and denying mood meaning that they have no really contact and do not want contact. After spending more time next to them Paul gets by and by the possibility to see them better and find out more about them. He describes them as having ???childlike faces ??? (194). As Paul is still very young, he is like a child sometimes too. A child would not be able to destroy as much as the war does. This quote claims that the feelings the Russians and Paul have for war could be very similar and they are alike each other in their hearts. When Paul finds a few German speaking Russians, a few play on their instruments, ???mostly folk-songs???(195). Paul also played an instrument before the war-the piano. The music represent that there is still live in the worn-out, hopeless bodies and the hope of live after the war shared by both Paul and the Russians. Paul realizes that the Russians cannot have a lot of differences compared to him and that they are in the same situation with the same goal, they are sitting in one boat.
Also the Frenchman he killed in the trenches insinuate to the humanity of the enemy. While Paul is forced to spend his time with him, he finds more about the identity of the man out . In this passage is the same development from Paul as with the Russians; in the beginning he sees and feels only a ???body or figure???(216, 218) falling over him, but in the end he calls him a ???comrade???(223). While his feelings increase, also the knowledge of what and who this person is increase too- he gets emotions because in the end there something more than just a body in front of him, it is a human. Paul sees the ???extraordinary expressing of fright??? in the Frenchmans eyes and he know that this is because of him- it is a fear of death, because he still wants to live and would have something to lose if he died. There is something more beyond than just a person fighting and dying for his country. He also know that he could be in this place and that he would feel exactly ???the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony???(223). He tells him that ???[I] see you are a man like me???(223) and in this moment he recognizes that completely. It is the same similarity as with the Russians, but more clearly for Paul. Later when the Frenchman is dead and Paul finds his notice-book, Paul considers for the first time the past of a soldier; he gets to know to his identity. Through reading his name in the book, the man gets more than a soldier for Paul. He said that ???[I] have killed he printer Gerard Duval. [I] must be a printer???(225). He realizes that he does not just have destroyed a life, he has destroyed this life, the life of Gerard Duval, and somewhere in France this person is missing now. He feels guilty and wants to replace it by him. ???There a portraits of a woman and a little child???(224) in the booklet of the man, which Paul looks at. This man had a family, he loved; this man had feelings, also just like Paul.
After the encounter with the Frenchman he is now aware of what he has destroyed all the time and he finds out that the people are not just senseless figures or bodies and that everybody has a place. They are all humans, just like Paul.
Finally Pauls new view of the enemy result of the ???being someone??? and having an indentity, which have not been there before, and the finding out of the similar feelings and wishes. They all have the same aim and are all in the same situation, they want to survive.
Without knowing that, the enemies are just soldiers, who have to be killed. When he kills or has to kill an enemy now there is humanity in him- Pauls whole perception changed.