Site Loader

… than it might otherwise have been.
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: FRAU
(MRS.) BAUMER Paul’s mother is a courageous woman
who is dying of cancer. She is the most comforting
person Paul finds at home. She alone does not
pretend to understand what it is like at the
front. Paul is in agony over her illness and is
overwhelmed by the love she shows him by preparing
his favorite foods and depriving herself in order
to buy him fine underwear. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON
THE WESTERN FRONT: FRAU (MRS.) KEMMERICH Unlike
Paul’s quiet mother, Franz Kemmerich’s mother
tends to weep and wail.

She had unreasonably
expected Paul to watch out for her son, Franz, and
blames him for surviving while Franz died. The two
mothers show different reactions to the brutality
of war. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT:
MITTELSTAEDT This classmate of Paul takes revenge
on schoolmaster Kantorek when the latter is
assigned to the home guard unit Mittelstaedt
commands. Once Kantorek had held Mittelstaedt’s
future in his hands by his potential influence in
connection with examinations. Aware now that
survival is more important than any test,
Mittelstaedt ridicules Kantorek, even using the
schoolmaster’s favorite phrases. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL
QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: BOETTCHER The former
porter at Paul’s school becomes a model reserve
soldier.

Mittelstaedt sends him on errands through
town with the former schoolmaster, Kantorek, who
is an impossible soldier, so that everyone may
enjoy the irony of the reversal of roles: the
nobody is now the teacher. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON
THE WESTERN FRONT: GERARD DUVAL Duval is a French
printer with a wife and child. The soldier Paul
instinctively stabs after he falls into Paul’s
shell hole. Paul’s horror grows as he waits hours
for Duval to die, and then learns the facts of his
life from his wallet. Duval is a pleasant-looking
man, and now he is dead at Paul’s own hand. Guilt
nearly drives Paul mad before a slowdown in the
firing finally allows him to leave the shell hole.
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: SERGEANT
OELLRICH In contrast to Paul, Oellrich is a sniper
who is proud of his ability to pick off enemy
soldiers.

Katczinsky and Kropp point him out to
Paul to shock him back to the reality of
front-line warfare after Paul has killed Duval.
Oellrich boasts about how his human targets jump
when he hits them, and Katczinsky and Kropp remind
Paul that the man will probably get a decoration
or promotion if he keeps shooting so well.
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: JOSEF
HAMACHER Hamacher is a popular soldier in Paul and
Kropp’s hospital ward. He can get away with
anything because of a “shooting license,” a paper
stating that he experiences periods of mental
derangement. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN
FRONT: LITTLE PETER Another patient, Peter is
small and has black, curly hair. His lung injury
is so serious that he is sent to the Dying Room, a
room located next to the elevator to the morgue.
He vows to return–and does, to everyone’s
amazement. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN
FRONT: SISTER LIBERTINE Sister Libertine is one of
the nurses at the hospital where Paul and Albert
are patients. Unlike some of the callous medics
and surgeons, and even the other serious-minded
nuns, she spreads good cheer throughout her entire
wing of the hospital.

The men would do anything
for her. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT:
FRANZ WACHTER Wachter dies in the hospital. Unable
to get anyone to take care of his hemorrhaging arm
wound, he makes Paul realize that patients can die
just from neglect. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE
WESTERN FRONT: THE THREE FRENCH GIRLS Three girls
live in a house across the river from a German
camp. Paul, Kropp, and Leer swim a closely guarded
canal to spend two evenings with them. Leer’s
favorite is the blond; Paul’s girl is the little
brunet.

She is not particularly concerned that he
is going on leave. Considering the shortages, she
will welcome any decent soldier, whatever his
uniform, if he can also bring food. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL
QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: BERGER Berger is the
strongest soldier in Paul’s company. At one time
he stoically listened while the screaming horses
died, but by the end of the war his protective
shell has grown as thin as anyone else’s. He loses
all judgement and insanely tries to rescue a
wounded messenger dog two hundred yards off. He
dies of a pelvis wound in the attempt.
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: KAISER
WILHELM William II (1859-1941), or Kaiser Wilhelm,
who briefly appears to inspect troops, is a figure
from world history.

Emperor of Germany and King of
Prussia from 1888 to 1918, he was the son of
Frederick III and a grandson of both William I of
Germany and Queen Victoria of England. When he was
a young man, his parents rejected his belief in
the divine right of kingship and disliked his
impulsiveness and love of military display. These
traits have often been explained as his attempts
to compensate for a withered left arm. His visit
to the troops in this novel shows both his love of
military display and his lack of an imposing
physical appearance. His goal was to make Germany
a major world power, and he was the dominant force
in his own government. He loved foreign travel but
often spoke impulsively and insulted other heads
of state.

His actions helped drive Great Britain
into an alliance with France. He engaged in the
famous “Willy-Nicky” correspondence with Czar
Nicholas of Russia, but undermined the friendship
by supporting Austria in policies offensive to
Russia. He strained relationships with France by
interfering in colonial affairs in Morocco.
Alarmed at the growing isolation of Germany, he
allied his country with Austria, Italy, and
Turkey. His power declined after the outbreak of
the First World War. His abdication was one of the
peace requirements demanded by the Allies in 1918.
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: SETTING
The story told in All Quiet on the Western Front
occurs during the two years just before the
Armistice ended World War I in November 1918. In
Chapters 1 and 2 we learn that Paul Baumer, the
narrator, and his friend Kat had been together
three years–one year longer than the time period
covered by the novel.

By 1916 when the story
begins, World War I had already been underway for
two years. It broke out in August 1914 between the
Allies (Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia,
and later the United States) and the Central
Powers (Austria-Hungary and Germany). In June 1914
Austrian Archduke Frances Ferdinand and his wife
had been assassinated at Sarajevo by a Serbian
nationalist, leading to Austria-Hungary’s
declaration of war on Serbia. German leaders,
alarmed at Russian mobilization and eager to
establish the Reich as a power on a par with
Britain, declared war on both of Germany’s
neighbors, Russia and France. They also refused to
guarantee the neutrality of Belgium. Great
Britain, in turn, declared war on Germany in
response to the threat to British allies.

At the
time, Paul and his classmates would have been
16-year-old schoolboys. German desire to become a
major power was nothing new. Prussian beliefs
included the idea that Germany had to be a
military state because it lacked natural
protective boundaries. The Prussian goal was to
make Germany a glittering, well-organized,
self-confident machine. The idea that Paul
rejects–18-year-olds as Iron Youth–fits
perfectly into this Prussian mentality. From the
beginning, World War I was fought in two areas,
named for their geographical relationship to
Germany.

The Eastern Front extended into Russia,
and the Western Front extended through Belgium
into northern France. Germany hoped to knock out
France in six weeks and then turn its full
strength against Russia. The Allies, however, soon
halted the German army at the Marne River, and the
war in the West settled down to four years of
trench warfare–the static or at a standstill kind
of war described in the discussion of Chapter 6 in
this guidebook. In All Quiet, Paul describes a
battle with the French in Chapter 6 and then, a
short time later, is assigned to a camp (Chapter
8) where he guards Russian prisoners of war.
Although he does not name the exact locations for
the military offensives he describes–after all,
the place names had little to do with life and
death–the offensive in Chapter 6 could have been
the French attack in 1917 at Aisne and Champagne.
That offensive failed, with heavy French losses.
Meanwhile, behind the Fronts, all resources were
being directed toward winning the war. At first,
military methods used were mostly those from
earlier wars–infantry, cavalry, and
artillery–but this war boosted production of
tanks, planes, machine guns, high-explosive
shells, flamethrowers, and poison gas. The strong
industrial push left little for civil life, and
economies and governments were shattered all over
Europe.

Forced drafts of men, food shortages,
attacks on civilian populations, and hysteria
reached heights never before seen. It is during
this final period that the last few chapters of
All Quiet occur. By late 1917 Germany had won the
war in the East. In March 1918, Russia signed the
harsh treaty of Brest-Litovsk, giving Germany huge
chunks of its territory. Russia’s withdrawal
enabled Germany to transfer forces from the East
and to mount a supreme effort to capture Paris.
But by this time the United States was entering
the war, and timing was essential to the German
plan: the offensive had to succeed before American
troops could reach the Western Front in sizable
numbers. Ludendorff, the German leader who
directed the operation, was prepared to lose one
minion men to win.

He poured his efforts onto the
British sector. The situation became so desperate
that the Allies stopped arguing among themselves
and established a unified command under Marshal
Ferdinand Foch. Nevertheless, at its height the
German offensive came within 40 miles of Paris.
Then in May 1918 American divisions poured in, and
the Allies fought back furiously. In July they
broke through the new German lines and swept the
Central Powers back toward the pre-1914 frontiers.
In the fall of 1918, German allies began to
surrender–in September the Bulgarians, in October
the Turks. One by one, ethnic minorities within
Austria-Hungary began to proclaim independence,
and on November 3 the Austrians capitulated.
Germans were demoralized, and mutinies broke out
in German fleets. There were revolts among
civilians in Kiel and Hamburg.

In early November
the German king or emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm, fled
to Holland. Finally, on November 11, 1918, a
German delegation appeared at Allied headquarters
to request an armistice. Overall, the war was
fought at tremendous cost. Most tragic was the
loss in lives. Known dead included 1.8 million
German soldiers and more than one million men each
from Russia, France, Austria-Hungary, the United
Kingdom, and Italy. Even the U.S., latecomer to
the war, lost more than 100,000 men.

Actual
fatalities have been estimated as high as 13
million. In addition, nearly 22 million men were
wounded, 7 million of them permanently disabled or
mutilated. More than 9 million civilians were also
killed. The world of 1919 was stunned and
uncertain. Ten years later the mood still
lingered. People wanted to understand what had
happened but could not.

It is in that atmosphere
that Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front
appeared. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN
FRONT: THEMES In the short note that comes just
before Chapter 1, Remarque lets us know exactly
what theme he intends. He says that All Quiet on
the Western Front is the story of a generation of
young men who were destroyed by World War I–even
if they survived the shelling. To arrive at a
fifth statement of this main theme, Remarque
weaves several related themes into the story. The
outline that follows points out chapters you can
read to see how he presents each idea. Remarque
includes discussions among Paul’s group, and
Paul’s own thoughts while he observes Russian
prisoners of war (Chapters 3, 8, 9) to show that
no ordinary people benefit from a war.

No matter
what side a man is on, he is killing other men
just like himself, people with whom he might even
be friends at another time. But Remarque doesn’t
just tell us war is horrible. He also shows us
that war is terrible beyond anything we could
imagine. All our senses are assaulted: we see
newly dead soldiers and long-dead corpses tossed
up together in a cemetery (Chapter 4); we hear the
unearthly screaming of the wounded horses (Chapter
4); we see and smell three layers of bodies,
swelling up and belching gases, dumped into a huge
shell hole (Chapter 6); and we can almost touch
the naked bodies hanging in trees and the limbs
lying around the battlefield (Chapter 9). The
crying of the horses is especially terrible.
Horses have nothing to do with making war. Their
bodies gleam beautifully as they parade
along–until the shells strike them.

To Paul,
their dying cries represent all of nature accusing
Man, the great destroyer. In later chapters Paul
no longer mentions nature as an accuser but seems
to suggest that nature is simply there–rolling
steadily on through the seasons, paying no
attention to the desperate cruelties of men to
each other. This, too, shows the horror of war,
that it is completely unnatural and has no place
in the larger scheme of things. 2. A REJECTION OF
TRADITIONAL VALUES In his introductory note
Remarque said that his novel was not an
accusation. But we have seen that it is, in many
places, exactly that.

This accusation–or
rejection of traditional militaristic values of
Western civilization–is impressed on the reader
through the young soldiers, represented by Paul
and his friends, who see military attitudes as
stupid and who accuse their elders of betraying
them. In an early chapter Paul admits that endless
drilling and sheer harassment did help toughen his
group and turn them into soldiers. But he points
out, often, how stupid it is to stick to
regulations at the front–how insane this basic
military attitude becomes in life-and-death
situations. One such scene occurs in Chapter 1
when Ginger, the cook, doesn’t want to let 80 men
eat the food prepared for 150, no matter how
hungry they are. Another occurs in Chapter 7 when
Paul is walking around in his hometown and a major
forces him to march double time and salute
properly–a ridiculous display, considering what
he has just been through at the front. The
emptiness of all this spit and polish shows up
again in Chapter 9 when the men have to return the
new clothes they were issued for the Kaiser’s
inspection: rags are what’s real at the front.

The
betrayal of the young by their elders becomes an
issue on several occasions. In the first two
chapters of the book we learn how misguided Paul
was by the teachings of parents and schoolmasters.
We also see how older people cling to the Prussian
myth of the glory of military might when Paul goes
home on leave in Chapter 7. The Kaiser’s visit in
Chapter 9 adds some hints of Remarque’s specific
disillusionment with the leaders of his own
country. From a broad study of literature and
world history, we can see that these older people
were not individually to blame for their views.
They were simply handing on what was handed on to
them. Still, we can also understand why Paul and
his friends are so bitterly disappointed and so
angry to discover that their elders were wrong.
Most readers feel a little sad that young men
should consider the act of ridiculing adults their
greatest goal in life, but we can also understand
why they take revenge on Himmelstoss and Kantorek
(Chapters 3 and 7). We even get a certain kick out
of what they do, understanding their need to take
out their disappointment on someone they know.
These situations are, in miniature, an acting out
of the bitter anger and disillusionment Paul feels
when he says in Chapter 10, “It must all be lies
and of no account when the culture of a thousand
years could not prevent this stream of blood being
poured out.” 3.

FRIENDSHIP: THE ONLY ENDURING
VALUE The theme of comradeship occurs often and
gives the novel both lighthearted and sad moments.
In Chapter 5 it’s easy to overlook how the farmer
felt about having his property stolen and to
chuckle aloud when Paul is struggling to capture
the goose! We appreciate the circle of warmth that
encloses him and Kat that night as they slowly
cook and eat the goose, and then extend their warm
circle by sharing the leftovers with Kropp and
Tjaden. In Chapter 10 we enjoy their sharing of
the pancakes and roast pig and fine club chairs at
the supply dump, and we understand why Paul fakes
a high temperature to go to the same hospital as
Albert Kropp. Friendship emerges as an even more
important theme at the front. In Chapters 10 and
11 we see men helping wounded comrades at great
personal risk–or even, like Lieutenant Bertinck,
dying for their friends. The handing on of
Kemmerich’s fine yellow leather boots also acts as
a symbol of friendship–a symbol we can almost
touch, and one that keeps us aware of how deeply a
soldier feels the loss of each of his special
friends. We can understand how hearing the voices
of friends when one is lost (Chapter 9) or even
just hearing their breathing during the night
(Chapter 11) can keep a soldier going.

We grieve
with Paul and almost put down the book when Kat
dies. 4. A GENERATION DESTROYED BY WORLD WAR I
Taking all of the themes together and adding Paul
and his friends’ hopeless discussions of what is
left for them to do after the war (Chapter 5), we
can conclude that Remarque succeeds in his main
theme: showing that Paul’s generation was
destroyed by the Great War, as World War I was
then called. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN
FRONT: STYLE AND STRUCTURE All Quiet on the
Western Front is, on the whole, a very serious and
even a grim novel. Remarque presents his message
through vivid description and imagery. The tone is
not overwhelmingly bitter.

Two things stand out in
Remarque’s style: his vivid word pictures and the
way he balances contrasting scenes against each
other to make each one stand out. His descriptions
bring every chapter to life, whether he is showing
us the glare of flares or the darkness beyond the
trenches, vicious rats or itchy lice, the steady
drumlike beat of bombardment or the piercing
shrieks of shells and wounded. His descriptions
also include images of beauty and peace–usually
in Paul’s thoughts–that make clear how awful the
front actually is. He converts a pair of boots, a
goose, and the circle of light cast by campfires
into symbols of friendship. And he uses similes to
show the brutality of war: the men fight like
thugs, like wild beasts. The tanks push
relentlessly forward like steel beasts squashing
bugs.

CH FAR FROM THE FRONT NEAR THE FRONT AT THE
FRONT 1 Recollections: Second Company, school,
Kantorek. down to 80 men, 2 Recollections:
Kemmerich’s death Himmelstoss, in a field
hospital. basic training The boots. 3
Reminiscences: Kat’s skill at Himmelstoss.
foraging. Theories 4 Barbed wire duty. The wounded
horses.

The upturned graves. 5 Insubordination to
Himmelstoss. Lack of post-war goals. The goose
incident. 6 Days upon days of trench warfare.
Company down to 32 men. Westhus wounded.

7 Paul
home on The evening with leave. the French girls.
9 The Kaiser’s visit. Paul’s killing of Duval in
the trench. 10 The hospital. The supply dump. 11
Starvation, lack of supplies, demoralization.

Loss
of Detering, Muller, Leer, Kat. 12 Paul’s death on
a quiet day. Remarque’s use of contrast, gives a
new meaning to the phrase “theater of war.” He
keeps us moving between the trenches and the rest
of the world. Even if Paul’s hometown is suffering
from war shortages, life there is safe and
comfortable compared with the front. Even the
hospital, filled with wounded, offers clean sheets
and regular food–luxuries unimaginable at the
front lines. These contrasts help us to understand
what is happening to the emotional life of the
young soldier.

The above chart will help you see
more clearly how Remarque uses contrasts. The
first part of All Quiet dwells on what happened at
home, far from the front, and what it is like near
the front. The middle chapters actually take us to
the front and then pull us back several times–to
civilian life, to a camp behind the lines, to a
supply dump, to a hospital–so that we too feel
the shock when we return, in the final chapters,
to the unrelieved pressures of the front. Finally,
Remarque’s style includes irony. We fully
appreciate how little value is attached to a
single human life by 1918 when we read the army
report on the progress of the war on the day Paul
dies: “All quiet on the Western Front.”
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: POINT OF
VIEW Stories usually are told from the first
person or the third person point of view. We get
these terms from grammar.

“I love” is a first
person structure, “you love” is second person, and
“he (or she) loves” is third person. A story is
told in the first person when the narrator says
that I or we are doing thus-and-so: someone
actually in the story is telling it. A third
person story uses the he or they approach; some
unnamed person outside the story is observing
others doing something. Except for the very last
two paragraphs of the book, All Quiet on the
Western Front is written from the first person
point of view. The story is being told by someone
who is actually in it–Paul Baumer–not by some
invisible outsider. Remarque does switch to third
person in the last two paragraphs for an obvious
reason: Paul cannot report his own death.

First
person narration always has both advantages and
disadvantages. A big advantage is that we tend to
identify with the main character. In All Quiet we
feel as if we are right there with Paul,
experiencing what he is seeing and hearing and
feeling. We almost think his thoughts, share his
ideas. First person narration makes the whole
story seem direct and real and honest. On the
other hand, first person narration also limits us
to knowing and seeing only what the narrator–in
this case, Paul–knows and sees.

We get other news
and views and opinions only as he filters them and
reports them to us. In the case of All Quiet, Paul
is young and immature. Until he enlisted, he had
never experienced real pain or tragedy in his
life. Older people generally know from experience
that human beings can survive incredible pain and
still find meaning in life. Paul hasn’t had any
time to gain that kind of experience to sustain
him. Therefore it’s asking quite a bit to have us
accept, from him, whole theories about war and
life and the nature of human beings.

Still,
whatever Paul might lack in age or experience is
balanced for us by the honesty and sensitivity we
see in him. Over all, then, in All Quiet on the
Western Front, the advantages of first person
narration outweigh the disadvantages. There is a
perfect fit of first person point of view with
what Remarque wanted to say about World War
I–that it destroyed a whole generation of the
young. How better to show us that than to let us
experience the war through the eyes of a young
soldier? ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT:
FORM When critics use the word form to discuss a
novel, they sometimes mean its overall style and
structure–the elements already presented under
that heading in this guidebook. Another meaning of
form is the category a novel falls into–how it
should be classified, what kind of fiction it is.
You yourself use from in this narrow, second
meaning when you say that you like to read
mysteries or westerns or romances or some other
kind of story. But if someone asked you what kind
of book All Quiet is, you would find that it just
doesn’t fit standard classifications.

You might
say it’s a war story–but it’s a lot more than
that. It’s also a story about a boy turning into a
disillusioned adult, or perhaps a story telling
society that it ought to eliminate the great evil
of war. The standard categories simply do not
express all that. The best term for a novel in
which everything depends on a specific war setting
is historical novel. Charles Dickens’ A Tale of
Two Cities, set during the French Revolution, is
an example. All Quiet does happen during World War
I, but Remarque doesn’t dwell on historical
details such as names of battles.

Instead he
concentrates much more on what any war does to
people. Usually a novel in which a young person
matures by passing through some kind of crisis is
called a novel of formation or a novel of
initiation. This fits Stephen Crane’s The Red
Badge of Courage, in which Henry Fleming starts
out as a naive boy, expecting war to be glorious,
only to find how terrible it is. It also fits All
Quiet to some extent, but not as well–by the time
the book begins, Paul has already become
disillusioned enough to call 70 deaths a
“miscalculation.” If you see All Quiet as a novel
telling society something wrong ought to be
changed–in this case, war–you could try
sociological novel, but again the label seems
somehow off. It fits a book against slavery like
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin but
seems to express only one element of All Quiet.
All in all, form as classification is simply too
narrow and artificial for this book. With All
Quiet, you are better off using the word form in
its broad senses meaning style and structure.

All
Quiet can be described as a novel made up of
dramatic scenes, vivid language, and a series of
contrasting episodes that make us feel how totally
destructive war is. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE
WESTERN FRONT: AUTHOR’S NOTE Remarque begins his
book with a note before the first chapter. In it
he says that his book “is to be neither an
accusation nor a confession, and least of all an
adventure,” but rather an account of a generation
of young men who were destroyed by the war–World
War I–“even though they may have escaped its
shells.” What does he mean? Biography and history
tell us his situation. By 1929 when his book came
out, World War I had been over for ten years, but
it was still affecting people like him and his
friends, who had gone from the schoolroom right
into the trenches. Many of them survived, but they
felt as if a shadow still hung over their lives.
After all that time, they still hadn’t been able
to sort out their feelings about the war. Remarque
says that he doesn’t want to accuse or blame
anyone, that he certainly doesn’t have anything
new to confess, and that he is definitely not
trying to write an adventure story–the kind of
war story that’s full of heroes and waving flags.
If all of that is what we should not expect, then
what should we expect? Well, if he means what he
says, he’s going to let the story itself show us
just exactly what was so destructive about World
War I.

Maybe it’s the deaths of friends; maybe
it’s the loss of ideals. We’ll need to read the
book to find out. But we can expect every chapter
to tell us something to support his theme: that
the First World War destroyed even those who came
through it alive. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE
WESTERN FRONT: CHAPTER 1 The very first paragraph
takes us within five miles of the front lines. The
men are resting on the ground, having just stuffed
themselves with beef and beans (the cook is stiff
dishing out more). There are double rations of
bread and sausage besides, and tobacco is so
plentiful that everyone can get his
preference–cigarets, cigars, or chews.

Whoever is
telling the story is right there, in it; this is
what is called first person narration. But the
narrator (we soon find out that he’s 19 years old
and his name is Paul Baumer) makes clear that the
whole situation is incredible:–“We have not had
such luck as this for a long time.” Where did the
windfall come from? Paul says, “We have only a
miscalculation to thank for it.” It turns out that
the quartermaster sent, and the cook prepared,
food for the full Second Company–150 men. But 70
were killed at the end of a quiet two-week mission
when the English suddenly opened up with
high-explosive field guns. Before we can stop to
think about Paul’s dismissing all those deaths as
a miscalculation, he backs up to tell the whole
story of how they nearly had to riot to get all
that food and tobacco. The cook, it seems, didn’t
care about the count; he just didn’t want to give
any man more than a single share. In the course of
retelling how their noise brought the company
commander, who finally ordered the cook to serve
everything, Paul introduces all his friends.
They’re an assorted lot: first, three of his
classmates from school–Muller, the bookworm,
Albert Kropp, the sharp thinker, and bearded Leer
who likes officers’ brothels.

Then there are three
other 19-year-olds: the skinny locksmith Tjaden,
the farmer Detering, and the peat-digger Haie
Westhus. Finally he names an older soldier–the
group’s shrewd, 40-year-old leader, a man with a
remarkable nose for food and soft jobs, Stanislaus
Katczinsky. NOTE: From their names we see that
these major characters are German, but it really
doesn’t matter. They could just as well be French
or English, so far as their experiences are
concerned. At this point we don’t really know if
Paul, the narrator, is as cold and unfeeling as he
appears. He and his friends seem to care much more
about food than about the lives of their
companions.

Is Remarque indirectly telling us that
war reduces people to animals? Or are the men just
being realistic? We’ll have to wait and see. The
day continues to be “wonderfully good,” says Paul,
because their mail catches up with them. But one
letter angers them. It’s from their schoolmaster,
Kantorek, who pumped them all so full of the glory
of fighting for their country that they marched
down to the district commandant together and
enlisted. The only one who had to be persuaded was
homely Josef Behm, and he’s dead already–the
first of their class to fall. Paul doesn’t blame
Kantorek personally for Behm’s death, but he does
blame the “thousands of Kantoreks” who were so
sure their view of the coming war was the right
one.

We were only 18, he says; we trusted our
teachers and our parents to guide us, and “they
let us down so badly.” He seems to be saying that
the war has cut them adrift from a meaningful
life, with no new values to replace the old ones.
All the young soldiers know for sure is that it’s
good to have a full belly or a good smoke. The
friends go over to visit Franz Kemmerich, a
classmate who is dying after a leg amputation.
Muller turns out to be totally crude and tactless.
Kemmerich is dying, and Muller rattles on about
Kemmerich’s stolen watch and just who will get
Kemmerich’s fine English leather boots. Paul, on
the other hand, recalls Kemmerich’s mother, crying
and begging Paul to look after Franz as they left
for the front. To Paul, Kemmerich still looks like
a child accidentally poured into a military
uniform. Perhaps war hasn’t blunted his
sensitivity yet, but Muller’s crudeness shocks us.
As they leave the dressing station, it is obvious
that Kropp, like Paul, is still brimful of
feelings. Erupting into anger, he hurls his
cigaret to the ground and mutters, “Damned swine!”
He is thinking of the leaders who sent them into
battle and of people like Kantorek calling waifs
like Kemmerich “Iron Youth.” “Youth!” thinks Paul.
“That is long ago.

We are old folk.” NOTE: THE
ROMANTIC VIEW OF WAR From history we know that the
Kantoreks passionately believed the ideals they
taught their children and students. World War I
broke out in what seems to us a largely innocent
world, a world that still associated warfare with
glorious cavalry charges and the noble pursuit of
heroic ideals. Everyone–Allies and Central Powers
alike–expected a quick, clean war with a glorious
aftermath. Most Europeans, not just Germans, saw
war as the adventure of a lifetime. The pop.

Post Author: admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *