The Road Back Shows WWI Post-Traumatic Stress

In The Road Back, Erick Maria Remarque follows the remnant of a German platoon returning home after for years in the trenches of France. They expect life to be as they remember it from their school days.

Some things haven’t changed. Mothers still dote on sons. Father still expect obedience. School administrators still wave the flag and talk about the glory of dying for one’s country.

But much has changed. The poor are poorer, the war profiteers richer.

And the boys have changed. They each suffer what we today call post-traumatic stress. The only people they can trust to understand are their buddies from the trenches.

Several of the men can’t adjust to post-war life.

Two commit suicide.

One is committed to a mental institution.

One ends up in jail for assault.

Families fracture.

Remarque’s soldiers rail against the society that turned them from idealists into angry, bitter men — and which is already preparing to send another generation into war.  Remarque’s fiction rings with such truth the Nazis banned his work.

As horrific as their experience has been, these men do not evoke sympathy.  By necessity, they have hardened themselves until they seem a species apart.

Remarque’s novel is not the least bit entertaining. That’s why it remains an engrossing and an important novel.

The Road Back
By Erick Maria Remarque
Trans. by A. W. Whreen
343 pages
1931 bestseller #6
My grade: A
© 2011 Linda Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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