Erich Maria Remarque's 'All Quiet on the Western Front' and Tim O'Brien's 'The Man I Killed': A Thematic Analysis of Short Stories

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Penned during two distinctly disparate eras in American military history, both Erich Maria Remarque's bleak account of trench warfare during World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Tim O'Brien's haunting elegy for a generation lost in the jungles of Vietnam, The Man I Killed, present readers with a stark reminder that beneath the veneer of glorious battle lies only suffering and death. Both authors imbue their work with a grim severity, presenting the reality of war as it truly exists. Men inflict grievous injuries on one another, breaking bodies and shattering lives, without ever truly knowing for what or whom they are fighting for. With their contributions to the genre of war literature, both Remarque and O'Brien have sought to lift the veil of vanity which, for so many wartime writers, perverts reality with patriotic fervor. In doing so, the authors manage to convey the true sacrifice of the conscripted soldier, the broken innocence which clouds a man's first kill, and the abandonment of one's identity which becomes necessary in order to kill again. It is no coincidence that Remarque and O'Brien include extremely graphic descriptions of the dead and dying throughout their work, because each author experienced these horrors firsthand from the field of combat. Remarque fought for the German Army during the infamous trench battles of World War I, witnessing death and destruction enacted on an industrial scale for the first time in human history, and his novel

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