Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “All Quiet on the Western Front” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “All Quiet on the Western Front” or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : Paul Baumer as Representative of the “Lost Generation" in “All Quiet on the Western Front"
Paul Baumer is an icon for the so-called “Lost Generation" which was a term first coined by Ernest Hemingway who, like Paul, served during World War I and also was disillusioned with the constant theme preached by teachers and parents about duty and honor for men. Young men across the world went to foreign lands to fight enemies in a warfare that was unlike any other to date. Instead of guns or other personal weapons, many of the developments of WWI included more efficient and less personal ways to kill, including tanks and poison gasses. This “Lost Generation" of young men who had been nurtured on ideas of patriotism, honor, glory, and patriotic duty returned home to fiercely rage against much of what had been taught to them as they attempted to voice their disillusionment. For this essay on “All Quiet on the Western Front" consider the ways in which Paul embodies the sentiments of the lost generation as you trace his character development to that of a wide-eyed boy of nineteen enthusiastically taking in these ideas that would later be shown to be hollow notions that were no longer viable or plausible, especially on the notoriously violent and grim front lines of the war that was like no other.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 : Patriotism & Glory Versus the Cold Realities of War
Unlike many other novels throughout literary history that have discussed wartime experiences with an emphasis on ideals such as nationalism, patriotism and the glory of war, “All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque does not engage this discussion at all and instead offers readers a grimly realistic depiction of war and the associated loss of innocence, humanity, and emotion that accompany it. Interestingly, this novel does not simply not glorify war, it actively seeks to engage in a conversation about the empty ideals that have fueled wars and warriors and how these notions are devoid of truth and vacant of any substance. All of the teachings by Kantorek that inspired Paul and his fellows at first are proven to be hollow ideas when the boys are faced with the horrors of war and as one political symbol (such as the Kaiser on his visit) after another are shown to be incongruent to the propaganda that led the young men into combat in the first place. Paul discovers that the only truth underlying war is that all parties, enemies and allies alike, are human beings—not faceless creatures. In short, the glorified notion of war and honor are proven to be false—along with the concept of an enemy itself.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : The Function of Detailed Graphic Gore and Violence in “All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque
One problem some readers have with “All Quiet on the Western Front" is the description by Erich Maria Remarque of the graphic violence and gore and the excruciating detail in which it is communicated. However it may seem, this is not gratuitous violence simply for the shock factor, nor is simply included to add realism to the novel. Instead, this is a definite effort on the part of the novelist to communicate the human side of war, almost as a direct affront to the centuries of novels that have favored the patriotic and nationalistic over the human cost. By presenting these young men as capable, charming, able and strong—as young men we could easily recognize in our own lives—only to have them blown to bits, to witness as they lose limbs, get poisoned by gas attacks and die otherwise unenviable deaths, Remarque is presenting both notions; the patriotic and glory of war side (particularly through the character of Kanorek) and the real human side that suffers great pain. This contrast is where the bulk of anti-war meaning of the novel hails from and the violence, far from being something that is par for the course or included simply to add realism, is there to communicate the horrible pain of war, physical and mental versus the hollow notions that landed the soldiers on the battlefield in the first place.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Blurring of Enemy Lines in “All Quiet on the Western Front"
One of the most important developments of Paul’s character as he increasingly realizes how vacant the promises of glory and one’s duty to fight are is how the notion of an “enemy" loses meaning on the battlefield—which is, ironically, the one place where the enemy should loom in one’s mind constantly. Throughout the novel Paul only comes to see the enemy, whether he is dead or alive, as a human being just like himself. Two of the most important sections of “All Quiet on the Western Front" where this occurs are when he observes the Russian prisoners of war and when he, acting on an animal impulse, stabs the French man, Gerald Duval, only to find that he was a father and a husband—a man not unlike himself. Throughout “All Quiet on the Western Front" the notion of common humanity acts as one of the greatest anti-war messages communicated and by putting a human face on the otherwise nameless “enemy" the futility of war and violence begins to seem unnecessary and wasteful of human life.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5 : Detachment and the Problem of Emotions in “All Quiet on the Western Front"
At the beginning of the novel the reader is made aware that Paul is a sensitive young man who enjoys philosophy and poetry and revels in ideas and concepts. However, this sense of humanity and level of emotion becomes one of his strongest enemies in the novel as he fights with himself about how he should feel about things. The world of war has completely toppled his relationship with his thoughts and he reflects a great deal on how he feels disconnected. The death of his friends one by one, his visits home where he cannot seem to seem to feel he has a place, his frustrated inability to experience simple joy and recapture his innocence or youth, his overwhelming grief over his instinctual murder of Gerard Duval—all of these are highly emotional events that he cannot seem to process all at once, if ever at all. In many ways, the ending of “All Quiet on the Western Front" is not tragic and while it is not necessarily a happy ending, the fact that the war is finally over and Paul no longer has to struggle with his guilt, disconnection from those he used to be a part of, and his anxiety about how he will live once the war is over are all positive things. He died with a calm smile on his face as these worries have been laid to rest. Most importantly, it is the death of emotion which arguably, in the world of war, was Paul’s greatest enemy.
This list of important quotations from “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “All Quiet on the Western Front” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque above, these quotes alone with page numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way.
“…at that time even one’s parents were ready with the word ‘coward’; no one had the vaguest idea what we were in for. The wisest were just poor and simple people. They knew the war to be a misfortune, whereas those who were better off, and should have been able to see more clearly what the consequences would be, were beside themselves with joy" (11).
“Kantorek would say that we stood on the threshold of life. And so it would seem. We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away. For the others, the older men, it is but an interruption. They were able to think beyond it. We, however, have been gripped by it and do not what the end may be. We only know in some strange and melancholy way we have become a waste land. All the same, we are not often sad" (20).
“The graveyard is a mass of wreckage. Coffins and corpses lie strewn about. They have been killed once again; but each of them that was flung up saved one of us" (81).
[Albert says the war has ruined them for everything and Paul thinks]: “He is right. We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst into our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.
“…I feel the lips of the little brunette and press myself against them, my eyes close, I want it all to fall from me, war and terror and grossness, in order to awaken young and happy; I think of the picture of the girl on the poster and, for a moment, believe that my life depends on winning her. And if I press even deeper into the arms that embrace me, perhaps a miracle may happen…"
“…Here hang bits of uniform, and somewhere else is plastered a bloody mess that was once a human limb" (208).
Even before the flames raging within the twisted steel of the fallen World Trade Center towers were extinguished, a debate began to flare up regarding the motivations of the perpetrators. How could Arab Muslim society produce young, well-educated men filled with such hatred toward America that they would kill more than 3,000 innocents -- as well as themselves -- to prove a point? Some argued that the killers were representative of a strain of Muslim revulsion at "who we are" -- that is, a profound hatred of American values, culture, and society. Others argued that disgust over "what we do" -- U.S. policy regarding Israel, oil, Arab autocrats, and Islam itself -- was the main source of the animus. Advocates of each position had their policy prescriptions readily at hand. The latter argued that we should change our policy to reduce the level of disgust among Arabs and Muslims. The former suggested nothing but staying the course, arguing that military victory alone would alter the calculus of hatred. This collection of essays owes its origin to my dissatisfaction with both sets of recommendations for U.S. policy.
A relatively small but still sizable, intensely ambitious, and disproportionately powerful subgroup of Muslims do indeed hate "who we are." For the most part, these are Islamists -- Muslims who reject modern notions of state, citizen, and individual rights and instead seek to impose a totalitarian version of Islam on peoples and nations around the globe. Within this subgroup are those who seek power through revolutionary or violent means and others who seek it through evolutionary or nonviolent means. While the former are unabashed terrorists, it is equally true that the latter can never be democrats.
There are also many Muslims who, while not Islamists, are genuinely angered by certain U.S. policies abroad. U.S. policy analysts would be doing their country a disservice by not recognizing this fact. While the outrage expressed by these Muslims may be episodic and almost surely lacks the operational significance often ascribed to it, it is nonetheless real and cannot merely be wished away by changing the topic.
And, lest we forget, there is a large percentage of Muslims whose daily lives are not animated by any of these issues. These are the tens of millions whose energies are completely sapped by the uphill struggle to eke out a living. They might have some passing knowledge of goings-on in faraway Baghdad or Gaza and may, if asked, express an opinion on them. But their interests and concerns are consumed by more urgent demands.
Regarding the various stripes of Islamists, the United States can do nothing to soften their hearts or change their minds. The goal of U.S. policy should instead be to seek their defeat -- through military means for those who use violence to gain power, and through political means for those whose tactics take a more circuitous path to the same objective. There is no benefit to be gained from targeting public diplomacy toward the Islamists.
Regarding other Muslims who actively critique U.S. policy, there is much the United States can do apart from the obviously self-defeating approach of changing policies to appease the critics. Given the structural biases, shoddy journalism, and intellectual drivel that passes for political discourse in many corners of the Middle East, America's top priority vis-a-vis these Muslims should be to make sure that their opinions are at least based on accurate, dispassionate information. In this regard, public diplomacy can help to create a "level playing field" so that U.S. policies (and the people advocating them) receive a fair hearing in the court of public opinion. Numerous tactical options flow from this strategy.
And regarding the millions of poor and struggling Muslims, the goal of U.S. policy should be to help provide them with the economic, educational, social, and other tools required to leave poverty behind and become constructive and contributing members of their societies. A wide range of policy instruments are available to achieve this goal, complemented by public diplomacy that underscores America's concern and commitment on a personal level.
The story does not end there, however. The key ingredient missing from most analyses of the "why do they hate us?" problem is a recognition that the first two groups of Muslims -- those whose hatred arises from "who we are" and those whose critique is based on "what we do" -- are also battling each other over the fate and direction of their societies. On rare occasions -- Algeria in the 1990s, for example -- this battle has devolved into a shooting war. More commonly, it is a battle of ideas over how to organize societies. The fact that this battle rages in most countries without too many bombs going off or too many dead bodies piling up neither renders it any less momentous nor makes the imperative of victory any less urgent.
The United States has a vital stake in the outcome of this battle, both for the sake of Muslims themselves and for the security of Americans and U.S. interests in Arab and Muslim countries. Without reservation or apology, America's strategy should be to help non- and anti-Islamist Muslims beat back the Islamist challenge. This strategy must be pursued even if many of these putative Muslim allies express bitter dislike for certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy.
In the post-September 11 era, public diplomacy should be focused on fighting the battle of ideas in Muslim societies. This is a battle that can be won, though it will take more time, money, commitment, and ingenuity than the U.S. government has so far been willing to dedicate to the task.
This set of essays discusses the many problems plaguing public diplomacy in the post-September 11 era and proposes how the United States should pursue what many regard as a mission impossible. Collectively, the essays span the three years since September 11. Four of them were written expressly for this collection, while the balance appeared previously in various publications and are reprinted here as originally published.
There are distinct advantages to using this format. A series of brief essays on discrete subtopics, written and developed over time, both makes the subjects discussed more accessible and provides a chronological context to evolving debates over public diplomacy. This approach may mean that some issues appear fresher and seem to merit more detailed discussion than others. Hopefully, that problem is outweighed by the benefits of following the intellectual odyssey that I undertook as I focused on the public diplomacy challenges facing America since September 11.
Seven months after the al-Qaeda attacks in the United States, my family and I moved from Washington to Rabat, Morocco, capital of a populous Arab Muslim country located at a strategic point between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, just nine miles from Europe. We lived in Rabat for more than two years, during a time of great challenge and turbulence. We traveled to every corner of the country and met Moroccans from all walks of life. I traveled to many corners of the Middle East as well. My wife and I learned much through our children and their experiences; one of our sons attended an outstanding local Moroccan school, while another attended the Rabat American School, an institution that provides the finest of American-style education to a student body that is overwhelmingly non-American. And, not being American officials ourselves, we were free to explore certain places at certain times when our diplomat friends did not have this license, such as when the entire family drove to downtown Rabat to witness one of the largest anti-Iraq war protests in the Middle East.
My summary assessment -- that the battle of ideas can be won if the United States is willing to commit itself to helping its current and potential Muslim allies "fight the fight" -- emerges in large part from my experience abroad. While this theme is present in several of the early essays in this collection, it is expounded with increasing confidence and buoyancy over time. Without minimizing the daunting obstacles that lie ahead, I am convinced that a public diplomacy infused with hope, optimism, candor, creativity, resources, and an entrepreneurial approach to building and supporting allies is the right strategy for America in the Middle East.