I Just Wanted To Say...

What is your problem?

Name:
Location: Georgia, United States

I am me. More than I was, less than I will be. This is difficult. Facts-female, southern, mother and grandmother. Abstract-a Christian, a loner, intelligent, somewhat arrogant, impatient with stupidity, an unusual sense of humor.

6/26/2005

All Quiet on The Western Front

I watched the 1979 made-for-TV version of this movie a few weeks ago. The book was required reading my junior year of high school and I saw the 1930 version on one of the movie channels quite a while ago. I decided to watch the movie again because of a description I read on a site that called it the "definitive anti-war movie". I was surprised by the description, because that wasn't how I remembered the story.
Perhaps Remarque intended it to be anti-war. I can't say. But I remembered it to be a story about disillusionment. About false expectations that don't last when forced up against harsh reality. The war was the catalyst for Paul's disillusionment, so to me, the setting was secondary to the changing human dynamic. He began as an idealistic student who is exhorted to join the Army in loyalty to the Kaiser. The process of disillusionment begins even before he gets into the field, in basic training, when he was faced with a drill instructor who was a petty little man who enjoyed mis-using the authority he had over the recruits. Years of trench warfare, where hundreds of lives were lost to gain a few feet, continued the process. Watching friends die, watching enemies die and eventually seeing no difference between the two, completed it.

This quote is almost the end of the last chapter--
"Let the months and years come, they can take nothing from me, they can take nothing more. I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear. " Paul dies shortly after this.
Knowing the truth, knowing reality not only made Paul unhappy, it made him hopeless.
This is the last line of the book--
"Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come."

There was a recent post on the INTJ list that asked this question- Is it better to be ignorant and content, or to have knowledge and be discontented? I didn't join the discussion because the question was one-sided. Neither of those options worked for me. For the character of Paul, knowledge of the truth was so painful in contrast to what he originally believed, that only death brought him peace. If he had been given a choice, I think he would have chosen to be ignorant and content. While I can understand Paul's situation intellectually, I can't agree with it because it isn't right for me. Because for me, there is another question that goes along with the first one. What if you are aware of your ignorance and discontent in that state? What if you gain knowledge and are more content with knowing the truth, even so painful a truth as the one he had to face? Turn the first question around to the second and see which choice of the four is really preferable. If your spouse was cheating on you, would you rather live in ignorance? If you had cancer, would you prefer not knowing?
Maybe the answer has to be considered in light of this-Paul lost hope. He couldn't or wouldn't let himself see a future past his day to day existence. But what if you could face a painful truth, and still believe in and work toward a hopeful future? What if you lost everything you once thought important, but you still believed in yourself? What if you didn't lose hope? Wouldn't knowing the truth, even a painful truth, then be the best choice as long as you realized there was still so much left to be gained?

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