Date of Award

1981

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine Remarque's Weltanschauung as expressed through his novels. Remarque sees the world negatively when he regards it as a whole. This all-encompassing world, the macrocosm, is defined by two basic factors: the evil side of man's nature, and the existence of death. The world, as Remarque views it, is not ruled according to a divine plan but is a world of man's own making. Because man has been unable to keep in check his tendencies for committing evil, he has brought about the events which characterize the first half of the twentieth century: two world wars and their ramifications. Remarque delineated these events and pictured man's inhumanity to man, unfathomable in extent and depth. Whereas there is some ray of hope--however subliminal--that man may eventually overcome his inclination for evil, the second factor contributing to Remarque's pessimistic world view cannot be ameliorated, for death can never be conquered. For Remarque, death is an abstraction and it is a reality; in both cases it marks the mortality of man and the end of the self in its present form. Knowledge of death colors the world of man with a sense of transitoriness and futility, and forces him to question the meaning and purpose of life. In contrast, when Remarque regards the world in its detail and component parts, he views it positively. It is here, in man's private world, in the microcosm, where primitive impulses are satisfied, where a degree of genuine humanity exists, and where real love adds a new dimension to life. His heroes create their own "Insel des Glucks" from which they derive a sense of personal triumph over the chaotic world in which they must live. In spite of all they must witness and personally suffer and endure, they are imbued with an immense desire to live. Life itself is sweet despite its brevity and vicissitudes. Remarque's heroes are members of the "lost generation." They are unable, even unwilling, to forget the events of the past which have inflicted such horrific damage to their world, and ultimately they put their life in the service of fighting against the evil they have witnessed. If there is hope for mankind, it can only come from the individual, for only the individual displays a sense of responsibility for his actions and gives evidence of a social conscience, qualities which are in danger of dissipating when he is absorbed by the amorphous mass, as happens in times of war. The background of this study examines sociological approaches to literature since all Remarque's novels are social novels depticting society and societal relationships, and it analyzes the historical and philosophical considerations which have contributed to the particular formation of Remarque's world view.

Pages

191

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