“If You Go Forward You Are Likely to Be Shot, If You Go Backwards You’ll Be Court Martialled and Shot.”

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“If you go forward you are likely to be shot, if you go backwards you’ll be court martialled and shot.” Explore the widening gulf between the soldiers and civilians/society in “Regeneration” by Pat Barker and “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Marie Remarque. The Great War of 1914 -18 was like no other war ever experienced by the world. More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history and resulted in the death of more than 9 million combatants. It tore through Europe devastating whole countries which were left broken shells of the buildings that had once been and demolishing areas where whole cities had previously stood. It had destroyed a whole generation leaving the soldiers who had fought in it broken shells of the young men they had once been. It drove a wedge between society and soldier as no civilian would ever be able to understand what atrocities the young men had experienced while fighting at the front. This left the soldiers feeling betrayed by their nations who had forced them to carry out their patriotic duty and sent them to their deaths. Both novels describe how the soldiers felt alienated from the lives that they had left behind. One British soldier wrote of how “despite the flag-waving that greeted us [Britain's returning troops] many felt nothing but hatred for the leaders and those back home who'd sent us to die.” Both novels, “Regeneration” by Pat Barker and “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Marie Remarque discuss how the brutalities and horrors experienced at war have left the men who fought in it feeling alienated and ostracised from civilian life. It is as though the war has somehow consumed their whole beings leaving them forever tainted by the corruption of war and separated from the society that forced them to make this personal sacrifice.

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