All Quiet On The Western Front Symbols

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade October 2001

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A symbol is something chosen to stand for or represent something else, as an object used to clarify a quality or an idea. Symbols are key tools in every great novel. Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, uses the symbols of the earth, the relations with the French woman, and the incident at the abandoned village to showcase the changes in a brave soldier's life.

The earth is a symbol representing man's instinctual emotions and how Mother Nature can affect those sentiments. Life, love, desire, need, and even death are possessions of her hands. ""¦[Earth] is his only friend, his brother, his mother; he stifles his terror and his cries in her security; she shelters him and releases him for ten seconds to live, to run, ten seconds of life; receives him again and often for ever" (Remarque 55). Earth is the shelter that saves a soldier's life and can also become the final resting place for his deceased body.

Paul's relation with the French woman is another important symbol in the novel. He seems to seek shelter in the arms of the enemy. "[The girls] nod and beckon us to come over. But we don't dare to do that. It is forbidden" (Remarque 144). Paul's actions imply that the salvation he yearns for cannot come from his fellow Germans or his leaders, for those are who betray him; those are who force him into the horrific trenches of the deadly front.

The war has changed the priorities of Paul and his comrades. This was symbolized through the incident in the abandoned village. When they were being bombed and shot at they grabbed all of the food before they ran to seek shelter. Paul even stayed back to finish making his pancakes.