GERM 1025/1026 Essay 3
Length: Approximately 1,500-1,750 words
Citation Format: MLA
Essay Due Date: Dec. 16 (submit via Brightspace)
Here are some possible essay questions. Choose one. You are allowed to come up with your own question/topic, but be sure to clear it with me first. Essays should be around three to four pages in 12-point font, double-spaced (not including the bibliography). As with the essay samples that I have included on Brightspace, you do not need a title-page; instead, you just need to include your name, student number, email address, course number, my name, and the date in the top right hand corner of the first page.
Your essay should have a title that reflects not only your topic but your argument about that topic; an introductory paragraph that introduces your topic, suggests how it will be approached in regards to the text, and closes with a clear and specific thesis statement; supporting paragraphs organized around points that support your thesis and that open with a strong topic sentence; specific evidence from the primary text itself; a sense of sound and logical transition from supporting point to supporting point; and a strong conclusion that reinforces your thesis and suggests something about its wider implications. The essay samples on Brightspace are very clear in regards to what I am looking for, so be sure to look over these before and while writing.
Be specific, be organized, and be sure to make good use of the text when making your case. When it comes to quoting from the text, be sure to comment on the quotes you use and incorporate them into your larger argument. If you have any questions while writing your essay, or if you would like me to look over a draft of your essay, please let me know.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
1. Education is a central theme in Remarque’s novel. This novel is suffused with
the sense that the younger generation has been misled and tricked by the older generation into fighting a war with no purpose. Discuss the role of education and miseducation in the novel, be it in school, at basic training, or on the battlefield. One way to handle this could be to contrast the teachers and parents with Kat, but this is only one possibility. Another might be to look at the hostility that Paul and his friends feel, not for the French, but for the Germans who have pushed them into this conflict.
2. Gertrude Stein once famously referred to the young soldiers who went off to
fight in WWI as a lost generation. How might this idea be applied to Paul and his friends? In what ways have they been altered irrevocably by the war? One scene worth keeping in mind is Paul’s furlough back home, which raises the possibility of his ever being able to truly go home. Another possibility could be to consider the circumstances of Remarque’s life following the war (here you would need to use critical/biographical sources). In what ways do the young men in particular seem to fear the end of the war as much as they do the war itself? Likewise, in what ways does the novel reflect Remarque’s desire to tell the story of those who, even if they escaped the shells, were destroyed by the war? If All Quiet on the Western Front is a Bildungsroman, what growth does Paul show or is able to show?
3. Remarque’s novel supports, in many ways, William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous
quote that “war is hell.” In what ways does the novel manage to reflect this view? How is the new technology of war – machine guns, gas, tanks, heavy shells – contributing to this hellish experience? In what ways does war strip the soldiers of their humanity? How, despite this, do they still manage to see the humanity in their supposed enemies? There are many scenes to consider in respect to this, but one scene that could potentially serve as a compelling contrast is Paul’s scene in the trench with the dead French soldier. Another scene worth considering is Kantorek’s letter and the soldiers’ reaction to it.
4. While war certainly can bring out the worst in us, Remarque is equally interested
in how, paradoxically, it can also bring out the best. How is comradeship explored in the novel? Look at Paul’s friendship with his fellow soldiers. How has war created a bond between these young men that peace never could? Paul’s friendship with Kat is another relationship worth exploring in respect to this question. Likewise, the scene with the goose dinner explicates this theme quite strongly, as does the scene in which Paul is trapped in Chapter 9.
5. Irony is ever present in Remarque’s novel, from the lies told by hypocrites
pushing young men to war to the very title of the novel itself. How is irony explored in the novel? Scenes of particular interest could be Paul’s time in the trench with the dead French soldier, Paul’s return home, Kat’s death, and the novel’s final moments. Another angle might be to consider this novel as a kind of Bildungsroman, chronicling the spiritual maturity of its hero, Paul, that nevertheless ends the way that it ends, tragically but also ironically.
6. Discuss the novel in terms of the actual historical period that Remarque is
depicting. Note here that while the question is broad, your response to it must be very specific, i.e. you must pick a very particular battle, feature of the war, etc., in your discussion; in other words, the more focused your example is, the stronger your essay will be. How does the novel compare to the actual history? In what ways is it accurate? If inaccurate, to what ends?