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All Quiet on the Western Front Review

In: English and Literature

Submitted By isalina95
Words 1477
Pages 6
Meredith Cheyenne
Professor Brillman
EUH 2030
August 30, 2014
All Quiet on the Western Front
All quiet on the western front is said to be the greatest war novel of all time. Written by Erich Remarque, this novel is set in the early 1900’s during World War 1. It is told in the voice of Paul Baumer, a young German soldier who joins the war to fight on the French front. We follow the events of Paul’s life during the war as well as his group of comrades with whom he lives and learns. While Paul and his friends once entered the war with a child-like innocence, they are quickly shaken with the realistic and painful lives that they are living. They learn to understand the brutality of the war that they are in and that maybe “to die for one’s country” is not as sweet an honorable as they once thought. Throughout the book, there is a constant theme of war and the difficulties of it. It is up to the reader to decipher if they consider the novel to be pro- or anti-war.
The book begins at suppertime after coming back from the front lines. Out of their company of 150 men to have gone with them, only 80 returned. Paul and his comrades believed that the extra rations that had been prepared should be dispersed among the remaining men. It is here that we first meet some of Paul’s comrades in war. There is Mueller, Kropp, and Katczinsky. Mueller is said to have been the more realistic one of the group. He sees the war for what it really is and his observance seems to foreshadow the loss of innocence among his friends as they progress through their life in the war. He is only 20 years old but he feels as if he is an old man saying that this youth was stolen by the war. Kropp is one of Paul’s closest friends as well as having been a classmate of his in school. He is also 20 years old and understands that the war is not full of glory as they were once made to believe. He constantly argues about the fact that they are fighting someone else’s war and believes that the politicians should be fighting this war themselves. There is also Katczinsky, a 40 year old man who has become Paul’s best friend during their time at war. Kat proves himself to be very resourceful and can always be found to acquire food, cigarettes, and other necessities when he or his friends find a need for them.
Another early scene depicts Paul and his friends on the toilets around each other playing cards and talking. Paul reminisces on the fact that when he first was out here, he had been very shy and embarrassed to sit on the public latrines just as the other newbies always seem to be. However they no longer have any shame in this and find that of all the things they have to worry about, this is not one of them. This is one of the first samples we see in which Paul and his comrades seem to lose a piece of their innocence that they had when they first came to the war. In school, a teacher that the boys shared named Kantorek convinced them to voluntarily enlist in the war. They were told that it would be honorable to fight for their country. Everyone, even the recruits and politicians, were sure that it would be a quick war. Some men even feared that the war would end before they could even get there. After all, they were only boys. They were young men fresh out of high school that had never experience true terror and pain that they had now become accustomed to.
Paul gets his first glimpse of real loss when one of his friends and former classmates, Franz Kemmerich loses his life. After contracting gangrene in his injured leg, he falls ill and dies. It is here that he realizes the cheapness of lives lost in the war when he sees that the body will need to be moved to make room for other injured soldiers. Neither the nurses nor the doctors seem to really care; no one mourns his passing, just his friends. A bit of his spirit lives on however in his boots. His comfortable pair of boots is no longer of any use to him so Kemmerich tells Paul to make sure that Mueller gets them when he dies. These boots become a symbol of the loss of innocence of the boys in the book. As one man dies, so his boots are passed between friends as a cruel reminder of the evils of war and the fate that awaits them.
Paul is granted leave to return home for a small period of time. When he returns home, he realizes how ignorant and stupid he had been. He sees that the things he used to value, his books, didn’t matter to him anymore. His only true value left is that he still has his life. He is perturbed by the way that everyone acts about the war, romanticizing it and asking him for tales of the splendor of it all. He is disgusted to think that he had once been so stupid as to believe that the war was anything but a brutal mess. When Kemmerich’s mother asks him if her son had died in great pain, he lies and tells her he went in peace to save her the pain. He feels there is no point to burdening her with the thoughts of her son on his deathbed and when she asks him to swear on everything that is sacred, he does. And he isn’t lying, because he does not believe that anything is sacred anymore: life, friendship, the war.
This novel begins in more of an informative voice; it simply speaks about the happenings in the war and the stories of what Paul and his friends are experiencing. However, as you read on, you can note the distinct change of voice to one of distaste and disgust. Paul speaks of the war with a hint of dark humor because he feels if they didn’t make jokes about their situation, then they might never make it through without going insane. Paul begins to speak about death and their losses. You can hear the distaste in how he speaks about the war and everything that is wrong with it and all that is happening to them. It is an anti-war novel because as it goes on, it really focuses on the pain inflicted by the war and the lack of sanity that one can keep after being traumatized in such a way. Even if they are fighting for their country, it is no longer honorable and a fantastic thought to be able to do so. An interesting scene is when Paul and his soldiers have to hide out in a cemetery. It is ironic that hiding among the dead is what is keeping them alive; this seems to be another symbol of their loss of innocence in the war. It might suggest that the men are more like the corpses now than their old school boy selves; they are un-feeling and un-caring.
As we see, Paul learns a lot along his way. He learns the problems with war and why it is not something to be made out to be beautiful but it is bloody and terrible. He loses his friends and his sanity. No matter how much he wants to, he can never truly come back from the war in his mind. At the end, he ends up killing a man and I believe this signifies when the last drop of innocence leaves him and he realizes that war has changed him because it is a terrible thing to go through. When he is injured and ordered into a bed, he doesn’t even know how to act. He has no desire to stay in clean white sheets because he fears making them dirty and he wonders what he will do now that the war is over. He doesn’t know what the world will hold for him in the future when he returns home. We see the final loss of innocence when Paul is killed. He was the last of his classmates still alive and, after all the fighting, he loses just as everyone else had. He is found with a calm expression on his face as though almost glad the end had come. The army report for that day simply reads, “All quiet on the western front.” It is fitting that Paul should die on a peaceful day to reflect his once peaceful soul before he was tainted by the war.

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