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All Quiet on the Western Front and Theme of Death of the Other

Erich Maria Remarque lets us know exactly what theme he intends for All Quiet on the Western Front in the short note that comes just before Chapter 1. He attests that the novel tries to simply tell the story of a generation of young men whom World War I destroyed– even if they survived the shelling.The text of the book supposedly neither accuses, confesses, nor least of all makes an adventure out of death,"for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it."While this may be Remarque's main theme on the surface of the text, Remarque weaves an underlining and parallel yet contradictory theme to it throughout the novel.The subtextual theme of All Quiet on the Western Front accuses human nature's survival instinct for its crudeness. It confesses to allowing its characters to be affected pleasurably to the death of others. And it makes an adventure for those trying to evade death.In so doing, the subtext supports Freud's thoughts on how the death-!
of-the-other strains us with the ambiguity of mournfulness and pleasure.Paul Baumer experiences this ambiguity when faced with the death-of-a-stranger and with the death-of-a-loved-one, namely Gerard Duval and Franz Kemmerich, respectively.
When dealing with the death of someone more distanced from him than a loved one, Baumer oscillates between the conflicting emotions of sympathy and the drive for self-preservation.Initially he experiences the drive for self-preservation when he wildly and unconsciously stabs the enemy then hits him again and again.Baumer attacks Duval repeatedly as if by reflex and says, "I do not think at all, I make no decision-I strike madly at home…" Baumer's ferocious stabbing maintains Freud's notion that in our unconscious impulses, we get rid of anyone who stands in our way.Freud saw all human behavior as motivated by instincts, which represent our physical needs.Thes…

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