Framing the Dialogue

All Quiet on the Western Front

If you have never read anything about World War I, you know what a brutal war that was.  I had two grandfathers who fought and survived.

All Quiet on the Western Front is written from the viewpoint of a group of German soldiers who were friends and decided to join the great adventure as young boys just out of school.  I am not sure whether the war made them men or just survivors.  Their lives were surely changed and one wonders how any would be able to return to a “normal” life after fighting.  This journey takes you on a ride through massed attacks, blundering leaders, massive artillery barrages, and brutal death.  And between those times, it often was all quiet on the Western front.

“Strange to say, Behm was one of the first to fall. He got hit in the eye during an attack, and we left him lying for dead. We couldn’t bring him with us, because we had to come back helter-skelter. In the afternoon suddenly we heard him call, and saw him crawling about in No Man’s Land. He had only been knocked unconscious.  Because he could not see, and was mad with pain, he failed to keep under cover, and so was shot down before anyone could go and fetch him in.”

Most of us have never experienced war.  My only knowledge is from novels or non-fiction stories.  I think that this novel captures the essence of war.  Is there any surprise that those who survive really don’t wish to talk about their experience?

“He wants me to tell him about the front; he is curious in a way that I find stupid and distressing; I no longer have any real contact with him. There is nothing he likes more than just hearing about it. I realize he does not know that a man cannot talk of such things; I would do it willingly, but it is too dangerous for me to put these things into words. I am afraid they might then become gigantic and I be no longer able to master them. What would become of us if everything that happens out there were quite clear to us?”

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