Literature About War Term Paper

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¶ … War

Over countless years of collective history there has been much written about war and it effect on the individual and society in general. Within those words is a wisdom that must be expressed to each new generation of lawmakers and soldiers. Those who have served their country during war will find no truth, or little glory in the horror of their personal or collective experiences of war and bloodshed. The challenges of overcoming the psychological damage one engenders from witnessing warfare, first hand, are monumental. Most men will never forge the images, feelings, and smells that they encountered in their years of combat. No matter how much is said or written about war it remains a human condition, unlike any other that will always tell a story of human fear and destructiveness.

In three quotes, about war from three famous men there are universal messages of war that are expressed repeatedly in literature; "Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die." (Herbert Hoover) "Wars have never hurt anybody except the people who die." (Salvador Dali) "You can't say that civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way." (Will Rogers). Within the words of Paul Baumer and Kantoreck in All Quiet on the Western Front, Wilfred Owens, poems of the war, and Dr. W.H.R. Rivers in Regeneration are words that encompass some of the sentiments of the various quotes about war that have been espoused over the years.

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Through the words of these voices, characters and real people there are messages of great importance, a kind that has little comparison, because they are real formations of cause and memory during horrific experiences, unlike any others. There are those who willfully express patriotism that surrounds the righteous cause of their country and attempts to create the same idealism in others. There are those who graphically question the cause with sentiments about those who are really hurt by war, and lastly those who condemn war through the personification and deification of the technology of it.

Term Paper on Literature About War Assignment

Within All Quite on the Western Front the character Kantorek reflects the words of Herbert Hoover when he said: "Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die." Kantorek, the strict and patriotic schoolmaster that urges what he calls the "Iron Youth" to enlist in the army and go to France to fight the enemy. He is described through the mouths of the men/boys he convinced to enlist. Within this work there are countless examples of the Hoover sentiment, as the soldiers convene to deify the older man who patriotically, got them into the battle. Despite their youth they are clear about the reality of their position and fear for their lives, while they chide the older man, of authority who declared war in their hearts while they were impressionable and unclear about what war really means for the youth who ennter it.

A group of young men are reflecting on war as they read letters from home, and one has received a patriotic bit of what he considers drivel from the older man who has convinced them to enlist. "Kropp pulls out one. "Kantorek sends you all his best wishes."

We laugh. Muller throws his cigarette away and says "I wish he was here." (Remarque, 1958, pg. 9) a bit later in the work the character Paul Baumer describes Kantorek, with a hint of disgust and a questioning of the real authority these young men felt from him when they were under his charge. Now they are clear on how horrific war is and with that reality they find the words of the older men who are patriots, who think dying for one's country is sweet even though they will not be the ones to die, to be empty and even a bit ruthless.

Kantorek had been our schoolmaster, an active little man in a grey tail-coat, with a face like a shrewmouse. He was about the same size as...the "Terror of Klosterberg." It is very queer that the unhappiness of the world is so often brought on by small men....During drill-time Kantorek gave us long lectures until the whole of our class went under his shepherding to the District Commandant and volunteered. I can see him now, as he used to glare at us through his spectacles and say in a moving voice: "Won't you join up, Comrades?" (Remarque, 1958, pg. 9)

Within these words is the irony of the situation these very young men of 19 find themselves entrapped in. Kantorek, said things like: "We have the good fortune to live in a great age, we must all humble ourselves and for once put aside bitterness" (Remarque, 1958, pg. 180) and "in the trifles never lose sight of the great adventure." (Remarque, 1958, pg. 180) as the world of these "Iron Youth" (as Kantorek calls them) no longer feeling young, is filled with the atrocities of war, the horror of futile and helpless death, Paul Baumer expresses a graphically picturesque impression of the world around these prematurely old men:

We see men living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps into the next shellhole; a lance-corporal crawls a mile and half on his hands dragging his smashed knee after him; another goes to the dressing-station and over his clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see men without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death. (Remarque, 1958, pg. 135)

Baumer painfully wonders why these men had to die in such horror over this bloodied and useless looking piece of earth. He also expresses the numbing feeling of seeing such things but being entirely unable to do anything about them, hopeless and helpless death. "The sun goes down, night comes, the shells whine, life is at an end.

Still the little piece of convulsed earth in which we lie is held. We have yielded no more than a few hundred yards of it as a prize to the enemy. But on every yard there lies a dead man." (Remarque, 1958, pg. 135) the sentiment of the wasted youth is sometimes lost in the prematurely wise words of soldiers. One must constantly be reminded when looking at the literature of war the ages of those who speak. The men at war in this case are 19 years old but feel as if life is at an end and their lives are wasted over scorched earth, hled dear by the old men who declare war to save it

The words of Baumer would have been well heard by the Poet Wilfred Owen, and by Salvador Dali who said: "Wars have never hurt anybody except the people who die."

Owen expressed the futility of lost lives in his poem Anthem for Doomed Youth, "What passing bells for those who die as cattle/Only the monstrous anger of the guns/Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle/Can patter out their hasty orisons." (Owen) Owen cursed the emptiness of the lives and unsung deaths of the youthful soldiers, and cried for their lost lives. Dali, makes his statement partly in jest as he is fully aware that the whole of society and culture are hurt by war and by the deaths of so many courageous young men. At the very least their families are affected. Dali means for his words to ring sarcastic while Owen means for them to be vivid recollections of the internal and external losses of those who engage in war.

Owen uses the words of the patriot and the reality of the horrors of war to call empty patriotism by its true name in his poem Dulce et Decorum est, (from the famed Horace quote "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" it is sweet and glorius to die for one's country.)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, / Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,/Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,/and towards our distant rest began to trudge./Men marched asleep. / Many had lost their boots,/but limped on, blood-shod. / All went lame, all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots/of gas-shells dropping softly behind./Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! -- an ecstasy of fumbling/Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,/but someone still was yelling out and stumbling/and flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. -- (Owen)

In this work Owen depicts the harm that comes to the men who are hurt by war, those Dali sarcastically expresses as the only ones hurt by it. Owen gives testament not only to the men who die, but also to those who experience a death of their souls by endlessly watching the tragic and brutal horror of death in war. The words of Dali, pale in comparison to the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Literature About War.  (2004, December 13).  Retrieved January 20, 2021, from

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"Literature About War."  December 13, 2004.  Accessed January 20, 2021.