All Quiet on the Western Front


The remains of Paul Baumer's company had moved behind the German front lines for a short rest at the beginning of the novel. After Behm became Paul's first dead schoolmate, Paul viewed the older generation bitterly, particularly Kantorek, the teacher who convinced Paul and his classmates to join the military, feeling alone and betrayed in the world that they had left for him. Paul's generation felt empty and isolated from the rest of the world due to the fact that they had never truly established any part of themselves in civilian life. At boot camp, Himmelstoss abused Paul and his friends, yet the harassment only brought them closer together and developed a strong spirit amongst them. Katczinsky, or Kat, was soon shown to be a master scavenger, being able to provide the group with food or virtually anything else; on this basis Paul and him grew quite close. Paul's unit was assigned to lay barbed wire on the front line, and a sudden shelling resulted in the severe wounding of a recruit that Paul had comforted earlier. Paul and Kat again strongly questioned the War. After Paul's company were returned to the huts behind the lines, Himmelstoss appeared and was insulted by some of the members of Paul's unit, who were then only mildly punished. During a bloody battle, 120 of the men in Paul's unit were killed. Paul was given leave and returned home only to find himself very distant from his family as a result of the war. He left in agony knowing that his youth was lost forever. Before returning to his unit, Paul spent a little while at a military camp where he viewed a Russian prisoner of war camp with severe starvation problems and again questioned the values that he had grown up with contrasted to the values while fighting the war. After Paul returned to his unit, they were sent to the front. During an attack, Paul killed a French soldier. After discovering that this soldier had a family, Paul was deeply shattered and vowed to prevent other such wars. Paul's unit was assigned to guard a supply depot of an abandoned village, but he and Kropp were soon wounded when trying to escape from the village. Paul headed back to the front, only to engage in final battles where all of his friends were killed. The death of Kat was particularly hard for Paul because they were very close. One month before the Armistice, Paul was killed.

Ramarque's purpose in writing this book was to display the hidden costs of war. The physical aspects of death and wounds did not begin to portray the mental anguish that the soldiers experienced during and after the war. He hoped to show the results of war on an entire generation; a loss of innocence in life which those who were once soldiers could never replace. Remarque's message came across very clearly. There were constant tragedies which forced Paul or the other soldiers to question war and become detached from civilian life. After viewing the death of a close friend and a recruit whom he had comforted earlier, Paul went home finding that war had isolated him from his family and his childhood. With the return to his unit he again felt the presence of belonging. Soldiers had become his family. The mental anguish was again vividly displayed after Paul killed a French soldier; discovering that the soldier had a family, Paul slipped into a deep agony vowing to prevent such wars from again occurring. The depth of the emotions that soldiers experienced created a very believable example of the psychological impacts of war.

A strong bias against war in general was shown in this novel. The experience of "lostness" from society as a result of war seemed to be a point presented often and possibly an experience of Remarque. Numerous times Paul found his unit to be separated from the rest of the world. He found no belonging to civilization but instead a brotherhood amongst his comrades in the military. The constant questioning of war and its values was presented very frequently and in fact may have included a few of Remarque's own questions of society and biases against the immorality and murder committed during war.

I have gained a great deal of insight into World War I from this