B. Discuss the way that Remarque uses structure to present and enhance the meaning and effects of his story.
The novel operates structurally. Remarque uses the structure of the novel to grasp the story together. He does this by creating contrast within the story and dividing up the novel creating flashbacks of emotion, memories and thoughts. This enables the structure to let out hidden emotions. It enhances the meaning and effects of the story in such a way that it indulges the readers deeper into the novel.
The novel does not follow the classic pattern of plot development, as Baumer battles mentally and physically against the war, however, there is a definite main structure in the novel. It has a beginning – (introduction to the soldiers), middle- (fighting in the war), and an end- (death of Baumer). From seeing that the main structure is very basic it shows us that the story is not very complex. This therefore shows us that other structures are needed in order for the story to have a greater effect. Examples of these topics of structures are contrast, flashbacks and division.
The structure is developed through a pattern of contrasts, for example, life against death. Every other chapter is set away from the actual battlefront and gives a more relaxed view of the war and its effects on the soldiers. In between the non- fighting changes, which serve as bridges, Remarque develops sounds, smells and cruelties of the war front. The reader is repeatedly brought face to face with death and destruction. These repeated contrasts are very effective.
Contrast does play a vita role in the structure of the story. However, the recollection of the past, memories, thought and emotions does too. Throughout the story we have vivid flashbacks of Baumers life before the war. At the beginning of the novel when the characters are at war there are many returns to life during these great periods of reserve.
“We have lost our ability to see things in other ways, because they are artificial. For us, it is only the facts that count. And good boots are hard to come by” (P15.)
Before I read this quote I had jumped to conclusions. I immediately thought that Muller was being extremely selfish by asking for the boots from his dying friend, Kemmerich. However, when Remarque divided up the actual story from Baumers thoughts I contradicted myself. I realised that I agreed completely with the quote and I no longer thought that Muller was selfish. This division and recollection within the novel enhanced the effect of the story on me as a person.
Many of these flashbacks consist of memories, emotions and thoughts. When Remarque flashes back to these points he does it to create a much more vivid effect for the reader. With these flashbacks the reader is enabled to empathize more with the characters and discover their hidden emotions.
The actual structure of the novel enhances the meaning and effect of the story. The novel is divided into short episodes and has a heavy reliance on conversation. Remarque’s work is divided into small sections, separated by asterisks. This feature makes it easier to read however it also creates a realistic effect for example, a journal entry or a brief conversation. The asterisks also divide up the flashbacks of emotions, memories and thoughts from the reality of the war.
The novel operates structurally. Especially on alteration between the cruelty and despair of the battle scenes and a gradual return to life during periods in reserve.
There are no stereotypes within the characters. There are no heroes or damsels’ in distress and not even a real enemy (except death). I think that Remarque chooses to structure the characters like this in order to enhance the effectiveness of empathy between the characters and readers. It makes the characters unique. When I read the book I felt that the characters were not stereotyped it therefore made me want to empathize more with them in order to find out more about them.
The structure of emotions plays a vital role in the novel. There is not a lot of obvious emotion throughout the story and in spite of the subject matter; the story is told unemotionally however there is certainly an emotional reaction from the reader. The reader suddenly becomes very confused with all the lack of emotion in the story and the amount of emotion which affects them. When writing about emotion Remarque’s writes it in a very factual way.
“He is right. We are no longer young men. We’ve lost any desire to conquer the world. We are refugees. We are fleeing from ourselves. From our lives… We don’t believe in those things anymore; we believe in the war.” (P. 63)
In the above quote Baumer states the facts about what he feels. Remarque states no emotion. The reader is the one that sees and interprets how he feels. The emotion that is in the story is hidden within the facts. However it also appears in the flashbacks of memories, thoughts and emotions.
In my opinion I think that Remarque’s novel would be unbearably painful to read had the author handled the text any differently. Remarque uses structure to enhance the meaning and effects of his story in many different ways. The main ways are, contrast, division, emotion and flashbacks. All these different methods have an individual way of affecting the novel in order to make each topic more intense and vivid.