Saturday, January 7, 2012

ALL quiet on the western front & lord of th eflies comparison

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Paula Fox wrote, “A lie hides the truth. Literature tries to find it.” This quote has significant meaning that applies to both Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Literature tries to uncover what has been buried in lies and present the truth to the reader. Both works succeed in uncovering misconceptions about war and human nature and reveal the real truth about humanity and the devastating effects of hatred.

All Quiet on the Western Front presents a whole different view of war. In the novel, Remarque uncovers the truth about war; he shows the horrifying side that most people cannot understand or believe. Many people perceive war with patriotic idealism and associate it with heroism and glory. Remarque does the exact opposite and presents a realistic and gruesome picture of war as it actually is and as the soldiers experience it. The author portrays this through Paul Baumer and his fellow comrades as they battle in the German army of World War I. Paul and his friends go into the war excited and believing in all the heroic and romantic stories told by their old school teacher Kantorak. Soon though, Paul and his comrades learn that none of this is true, and they begin to slowly fall apart, both mentally and physically. “We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm…. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts….we believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.” Paul and his friends can no longer imagine a life without war and are emotionally damaged because of their horrifying experiences. The only hope of survival for them is to battle without emotion.

Remarque does portray the strong bonds of friendship and loyalty that develop in the war. However, he also shows that in order to deal with the daily death and destruction, the soldiers learn to suppress their emotions--they even block out grief when one of their friends dies. For example, when Kemmerich is dying, the men are mainly concerned with who will get his boots. They push aside the fact that they are losing one of their close friends. Sadly, a pair of boots is more important to the soldiers at that time than the loss of human life. These boots symbolize the cheapness of human life during the war. As the boots are passed on, the soldiers cannot dwell on each death they face; they must disconnect themselves from their emotions and act on animal instinct in order to survive. Remarque emphasizes that this emotional disconnection destroys a soldier’s humanity.

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies also reveals truths about humanity and how savage human beings can really act. Golding suggests that when humans are left to their own ways, people can become cruel, wild, and uncivilized. Struggles develop despite imposed political systems or individual ethical values. Throughout the book, Golding stresses that human beings have basic instincts of civilization and savagery. The author portrays these instincts through three of the main characters. Ralph is the civil one who wants to follow rules, is concerned with the good of the group, and acts peacefully. Piggy is very intellectual and rational, and Jack is the savage one, who wants to obtain leadership over the others, acts violently, and lives a wild life hunting and killing. When the boys realize they are stranded on an island without any adults, they are both scared and excited. They try to get organized and select a leader, make rules, and assign duties. After awhile, some of the boys see no need for rules and begin to act like wild animals. As a result of their ferocious ways, they end up killing Simon and Piggy, important characters in the book. The struggle between Ralph and Jack and the manhunt at the end of the novel symbolize the defects of human nature and society. The “lord of the flies” is symbolic of “decay, destruction, and demoralization.” The book focuses on the basic wildness of human beings and the negative impact that this can have.

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In conclusion, All Quiet on the Western Front and Lord of the Flies are two pieces of literature that reveal frightening truths about war and human nature. Both authors clearly depict the animalistic nature of human beings and the destructive outcomes of war and violence. Through their literary works, Remarque and Golding expose “lies” and uncover hidden or perhaps ignored truths about modern society.

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