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All quiet on the western front
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Literary Link

This page includes a list of literary terms found in All Quiet on the Western Front. Definitions, interpretations, and examples follow each literary device’s listing.

Figurative Language - Speech or writing that departs from literal meaning in order to achieve a special effect or meaning, speech, or writing employing figures of speech (
Erich Maria Remarque used figurative language throughout the novel to describe characters, add suspense, add humor, and many other tasks. There was a large amount of figurative language in All Quiet on the Western Front.
Simile - A form of figurative language in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like, than, or as (
Remarque uses similes in the speech of the characters to add hyperbolic comments, humor, and develop the characters in who they are and how they act. Throughout the novel, Remarque displays death as common. One simile used to portray this theme of death is his description of a man “collapsing like a rotten tree” ("Themes and Construction: All Quiet on the Western Front").
Imagery - The use of vivid or figurative language to represent objects, actions, or ideas (
Remarque uses imagery throughout the novel. To add a sense or mood of sympathy to the story, Remarque uses vivid imagery in describing the Russian prisoner of wars’ lives in the camps or jails they were kept in. The imagery made them look pitiful and weak, which causes the reader to feel sorry for and sympathize with them. This same idea is also present in the description of the hospitals and the conditions the huge variety of people were in. The description of the gore and horror of the front lines increases suspense and extremely contributes to the various themes, especially to the theme of death. Imagery is very important and effective in the plot and story and contributes to the novel’s appeal to readers ("Themes and Construction: All Quiet on the Western Front").
Personification - A figure of speech in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form (
Remarque uses personification to describe the wind with stating that it “[plays] with the soldiers’ hair” and the darkness that “blackens the night with giant strides”. Personification is used at other times, but only has a slight contribution to this novel ("Themes and Construction: All Quiet on the Western Front").
Allusion - An instance of indirect reference (
Throughout the novel, Remarque uses an occasional allusion to past events. One notable allusion is the allusion to the epic tragedies of ancient Greece with Paul’s statement, “Ah, mother, mother! You still think I am a child—why can I not put my head in your lap and weep?” ("Themes and
Construction: All Quiet on the Western Front").
Repetition – An instance of stating something over and over again (
Many themes in the novel are repeated over and over again to imbue the thought into the reader’s mind and thoughts. Constant death and destruction of humans is one example of repetition. Another example is the repetition of simplistic thoughts and ideas, which contribute to the tone and theme ("Themes and Construction: All Quiet on the Western Front").
*NOTE*: The following three literary devices have their definitions listed and then an explanation of all three combined follows the third definition.
Language - A characteristic style of speech or writing (
Syntax - The pattern of formation of sentences or phrases (
Diction - Choice and use of words in speech or writing (
Remarque has a unique way of using language, syntax, and diction. The words chosen for the novel fit well to the fact that most of the main characters were in school or university when they were drafted. The words also fit in with the fact that it is during a war with the main characters fighting like machines struggling to survive. The sentence structure (syntax), diction, and language influence the theme and tone most thoroughly with the simplicity and coolness of movement and flow of the story. Simplicity also amplifies the theme of death ("Themes and Construction: All Quiet on the Western Front").
Symbolism - The practice of representing things by means of symbols (representative objects) or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships (
Remarque uses many symbols to develop the tone and theme and add small parts to the general information and content of the novel. One example is the portraying of nature, in the form of butterflies, animals, and poplar trees, as symbols of peace and innocence that is so close, yet so far away. Another symbol that is also an act of foreshadowing is the passing on of Kemmerich’s nice boots from Kemmerich to Müller to Tjaden to Paul. This passing on of boots after each dies foreshadows the death of the next wearer of the boots ("Themes and Construction: All Quiet on the Western Front").
*NOTE*: The setting is analyzed best in the historical section and partially in the study questions. The theme, tone, conflict, point of view, protagonist(s), and antagonist(s) are analyzed and discussed in the study questions. Some of these literary terms are periodically mentioned above, but are fully or further explained in the study questions.