AQotWF Seminar Reflection
“The effects of the war make the soldiers lose their mind over time with all the horror, death, and despair.” said George. This quote was a good summary of how the book progressed and that’s why it stood out to me. The main character’s mental state started noticeably breaking down around chapter 7 to the end. This comment made me think me more about the effects war and the mental toll it takes on the soldiers. I didn't think about how the horror adds up over time in a soldiers mind before I considered this quote. The effects of the war was mental and physical for the soldiers who saw all the gore and death they did.
I believe that the truth of war is it takes a massive toll on countries, economics, and especially the soldiers who may slowly go crazy. Nothing good comes from war except an agreement between countries. I also believe the truth varies from the mind of a soldier compared to that of a civilian. For a civilian war is a necessary and they may even see it as exciting, it must be done to solve the “bigger issue”. To the soldiers war is also necessary to win the bigger issue and they have pride in fighting for their country. The difference with the soldiers is their perspective could change throughout the war like in AQotWF. Paul says, ‘Let the months and years come, they can take nothing from me, they can take nothing more.” (Chap. 12, 295) In the book the soldiers start as young soldiers eager to fight for their county but later as they watch comrades die around them they realize they don't have a true understanding of what they’re fighting for and are greatly wounded by the constant death and horror that goes on. The truth of war to the soldiers has become surviving and watching countries destroy each other.
When discussing and reading All Quiet on the Western Front I immediately connected it with ISIS because it’s a current event that has to do with war. ISIS is an Islamic terrorist group who has no real aim except power. They have beheaded two American journalists and used media to show the world the horrors of war. In the book one of the scenes was described as “Shells, gas clouds, and flotillas of tanks—shattering, corroding, death.” (Chapter 11, page 283) During WWI these horrors were seen all the time on the battlefield but with modern technology there is much less man to man combat today. This current event stood out to me because I recognized the horror the soldiers had to go through and see every day in WWI. They also fought for pride and recognition, ISIS has recruited young men who want to fight for their country and also power. Similar to AQotWF once you are in the ISIS you can’t leave or you will be killed, in the book being trapped by war is used as a metaphor because once you are exposed to war you will always remember it. ISIS is similar to AQotWF with the horror, fighting for something, and being trapped in war.
My name is Gerald, I am a french soldier fighting on the Western Front against the Germans. It was a dark night during an attack on the Germans and we were ordered to charge enemy lines. As I ran through the black abyss I watched comrades and friends ahead of me get hit, killed, or injured. I know I am doing this for my country but I can't stop thinking about my wife who I am exuberant to see. I keep on running but suddenly trip and fall into a shell hole because of the low visibility. Out of nowhere a man jumps and top of me and stabs me in the throat while I writhe with pain and can barley breathe. I look at the man who has the knife in his hand which is dropping in blood. I wish he would finish me now but then I think of home and my wife who I promised I would see again and want to live. I am so scared I am going to die, the pain is unbearable, then the man comes up to me. He looks me straight in the eyes and starts crying and I feel I want to do the same. This war has made men like him and me turn to savages, blood thirsty killers, only because we all want to live. As I sit there with so much pain knowing this man did not want to kill me but had too, I forgive him. The hours become a blur and by the morning I know my time is up, I wish I had more time on earth, I wish there was no war, and I wish I was with my family but none of these wishes will come true…
One of the themes I noticed is the constant suggestions that the soldiers go mad with war. This is shown in chapter 6, page 114 when Paul says, “If your own father came over with them you would not hesitate to fling a bomb at him.” This was about half way through the book during a battle where the enemy line was approaching. Paul and his comrades fought back by becoming primitive puppets just looking to survive. The horror they saw in every battle was more than a normal person could imagine and this piled up mentally over time. “We will not be able to find our way any more. And men will not understand us—“ (chapter 12, page 294) This is normal for soldiers who know nothing but war, they don’t fit into society, and can’t find a true purpose. This war has removed feelings which is ordinary to fit in with people. It truly makes them slowly go mad, with the pain they experience mentally and physically.
Slaughterhouse 5 Seminar Reflection
The book Slaughter House 5 had many interesting ideas on time and space. One that we discussed during our seminar which caught my attention was time travel. The idea of time travel was first brought up in chapter two when the main character Billy Pilgrim took a “trip” to the war. Eno said, “Maybe Billy never actually traveled but used this part of his imagination to cope with the effects of war.” This quote made me think more deeply about the character of Billy who when examined closer was almost crazy. He traveled in his head on many occasions which made it very hard to track where Billy actually was in his life. The book was very un-linear making it greatly confusing to the reader. Billy was a war veteran who claims to time travel randomly to points in his life that had happened and that will. The idea is logical when explained but when analyzing Billy’s character we see that time travel is also a coping mechanism for post traumatic stress from the war.
Free will plays a big role in the book Slaughter House 5 where all the events are destined to happen. It is explained by Billy when he is on another planet with Montana Wildhack where she performs an action and Billy says, “The moment was so structured that she had to do so.”(Chapter 9, page 207) This quote suggests that what happens and what will happen are already destined to happen. If this is true then there isn’t free will in the book because a person doesn’t make their own choices but instead is already going to perform the action they think they are choosing. This concept also applies to humans, if a person decides to buy a new car it can be argued that no matter what that was destined to happen because the moment is “structured” that way. This concept brings fear because all human being want to feel they can make their own decisions, it brings security. The idea could be argued either way for there is no solid evidence that a moment is destined to happen or that there’s free will. I personally believe events are destined because the logic behind that idea appeals to me. Even if humans think they are choosing their destiny they are already on a set course to complete their destiny.
Something that I connected to the book was time travel. It sounds crazy but I’ve had a few dreams where I seem to time travel or see myself as an older self. The weird thing about this is the reality of how successful I will be or where I live is always different. This is why time travel appealed to me so much but I don't believe that Billy actually traveled to points in his life. I do believe the human mind is always wondering what the future may bring therefore may try and make up a reality. This idea has always interested me because my Grandma whom I am very close with, shares similar views. We’ve discussed seeing your future or fate through dreams. I believe that Kurt Vonnegut is very ahead of his time by suggesting time travel within the human mind. This concept connected to me personally and it helped me relate to the book.
The book AQotWF and Slaughterhouse 5 are both anti-war books which is the biggest similarity between the two books. In AQotWF the main character starts out a sane person but by the end war has changed him to someone who doest care about life and is crazy. In Slaughterhouse 5 the main character starts out crazy which is shown throughout the whole book. The books oppose war by showing the negative effects war has on soldiers and the countries it destroys. This theme is the biggest connection between the two books and also the most important for it was the main point of both books.