… than it might otherwise have been.
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: FRAU(MRS.) BAUMER Paul’s mother is a courageous womanwho is dying of cancer. She is the most comfortingperson Paul finds at home. She alone does notpretend to understand what it is like at thefront. Paul is in agony over her illness and isoverwhelmed by the love she shows him by preparinghis favorite foods and depriving herself in orderto buy him fine underwear.
^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ONTHE WESTERN FRONT: FRAU (MRS.) KEMMERICH UnlikePaul’s quiet mother, Franz Kemmerich’s mothertends to weep and wail.She had unreasonablyexpected Paul to watch out for her son, Franz, andblames him for surviving while Franz died. The twomothers show different reactions to the brutalityof war. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT:MITTELSTAEDT This classmate of Paul takes revengeon schoolmaster Kantorek when the latter isassigned to the home guard unit Mittelstaedtcommands. Once Kantorek had held Mittelstaedt’sfuture in his hands by his potential influence inconnection with examinations. Aware now thatsurvival is more important than any test,Mittelstaedt ridicules Kantorek, even using theschoolmaster’s favorite phrases. ^^^^^^^^^^ALLQUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: BOETTCHER The formerporter at Paul’s school becomes a model reservesoldier.
Mittelstaedt sends him on errands throughtown with the former schoolmaster, Kantorek, whois an impossible soldier, so that everyone mayenjoy the irony of the reversal of roles: thenobody is now the teacher. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ONTHE WESTERN FRONT: GERARD DUVAL Duval is a Frenchprinter with a wife and child. The soldier Paulinstinctively stabs after he falls into Paul’sshell hole. Paul’s horror grows as he waits hoursfor Duval to die, and then learns the facts of hislife from his wallet. Duval is a pleasant-lookingman, and now he is dead at Paul’s own hand. Guiltnearly drives Paul mad before a slowdown in thefiring finally allows him to leave the shell hole.^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: SERGEANTOELLRICH In contrast to Paul, Oellrich is a sniperwho is proud of his ability to pick off enemysoldiers.Katczinsky and Kropp point him out toPaul to shock him back to the reality offront-line warfare after Paul has killed Duval.
Oellrich boasts about how his human targets jumpwhen he hits them, and Katczinsky and Kropp remindPaul that the man will probably get a decorationor promotion if he keeps shooting so well.^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: JOSEFHAMACHER Hamacher is a popular soldier in Paul andKropp’s hospital ward. He can get away withanything because of a “shooting license,” a paperstating that he experiences periods of mentalderangement. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERNFRONT: LITTLE PETER Another patient, Peter issmall and has black, curly hair. His lung injuryis so serious that he is sent to the Dying Room, aroom located next to the elevator to the morgue.
He vows to return–and does, to everyone’samazement. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERNFRONT: SISTER LIBERTINE Sister Libertine is one ofthe nurses at the hospital where Paul and Albertare patients. Unlike some of the callous medicsand surgeons, and even the other serious-mindednuns, she spreads good cheer throughout her entirewing of the hospital.The men would do anythingfor her. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT:FRANZ WACHTER Wachter dies in the hospital. Unableto get anyone to take care of his hemorrhaging armwound, he makes Paul realize that patients can diejust from neglect. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THEWESTERN FRONT: THE THREE FRENCH GIRLS Three girlslive in a house across the river from a Germancamp.
Paul, Kropp, and Leer swim a closely guardedcanal to spend two evenings with them. Leer’sfavorite is the blond; Paul’s girl is the littlebrunet.She is not particularly concerned that heis going on leave. Considering the shortages, shewill welcome any decent soldier, whatever hisuniform, if he can also bring food.
^^^^^^^^^^ALLQUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: BERGER Berger is thestrongest soldier in Paul’s company. At one timehe stoically listened while the screaming horsesdied, but by the end of the war his protectiveshell has grown as thin as anyone else’s. He losesall judgement and insanely tries to rescue awounded messenger dog two hundred yards off. Hedies of a pelvis wound in the attempt.^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: KAISERWILHELM William II (1859-1941), or Kaiser Wilhelm,who briefly appears to inspect troops, is a figurefrom world history.Emperor of Germany and King ofPrussia from 1888 to 1918, he was the son ofFrederick III and a grandson of both William I ofGermany and Queen Victoria of England. When he wasa young man, his parents rejected his belief inthe divine right of kingship and disliked hisimpulsiveness and love of military display. Thesetraits have often been explained as his attemptsto compensate for a withered left arm.
His visitto the troops in this novel shows both his love ofmilitary display and his lack of an imposingphysical appearance. His goal was to make Germanya major world power, and he was the dominant forcein his own government. He loved foreign travel butoften spoke impulsively and insulted other headsof state.His actions helped drive Great Britaininto an alliance with France. He engaged in thefamous “Willy-Nicky” correspondence with CzarNicholas of Russia, but undermined the friendshipby supporting Austria in policies offensive toRussia. He strained relationships with France byinterfering in colonial affairs in Morocco.
Alarmed at the growing isolation of Germany, heallied his country with Austria, Italy, andTurkey. His power declined after the outbreak ofthe First World War. His abdication was one of thepeace requirements demanded by the Allies in 1918.^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: SETTINGThe story told in All Quiet on the Western Frontoccurs during the two years just before theArmistice ended World War I in November 1918. InChapters 1 and 2 we learn that Paul Baumer, thenarrator, and his friend Kat had been togetherthree years–one year longer than the time periodcovered by the novel.By 1916 when the storybegins, World War I had already been underway fortwo years. It broke out in August 1914 between theAllies (Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia,and later the United States) and the CentralPowers (Austria-Hungary and Germany).
In June 1914Austrian Archduke Frances Ferdinand and his wifehad been assassinated at Sarajevo by a Serbiannationalist, leading to Austria-Hungary’sdeclaration of war on Serbia. German leaders,alarmed at Russian mobilization and eager toestablish the Reich as a power on a par withBritain, declared war on both of Germany’sneighbors, Russia and France. They also refused toguarantee the neutrality of Belgium. GreatBritain, in turn, declared war on Germany inresponse to the threat to British allies.At thetime, Paul and his classmates would have been16-year-old schoolboys.
German desire to become amajor power was nothing new. Prussian beliefsincluded the idea that Germany had to be amilitary state because it lacked naturalprotective boundaries. The Prussian goal was tomake Germany a glittering, well-organized,self-confident machine. The idea that Paulrejects–18-year-olds as Iron Youth–fitsperfectly into this Prussian mentality. From thebeginning, World War I was fought in two areas,named for their geographical relationship toGermany.The Eastern Front extended into Russia,and the Western Front extended through Belgiuminto northern France. Germany hoped to knock outFrance in six weeks and then turn its fullstrength against Russia. The Allies, however, soonhalted the German army at the Marne River, and thewar in the West settled down to four years oftrench warfare–the static or at a standstill kindof war described in the discussion of Chapter 6 inthis guidebook.
In All Quiet, Paul describes abattle with the French in Chapter 6 and then, ashort time later, is assigned to a camp (Chapter8) where he guards Russian prisoners of war.Although he does not name the exact locations forthe military offensives he describes–after all,the place names had little to do with life anddeath–the offensive in Chapter 6 could have beenthe French attack in 1917 at Aisne and Champagne.That offensive failed, with heavy French losses.
Meanwhile, behind the Fronts, all resources werebeing directed toward winning the war. At first,military methods used were mostly those fromearlier wars–infantry, cavalry, andartillery–but this war boosted production oftanks, planes, machine guns, high-explosiveshells, flamethrowers, and poison gas. The strongindustrial push left little for civil life, andeconomies and governments were shattered all overEurope.Forced drafts of men, food shortages,attacks on civilian populations, and hysteriareached heights never before seen. It is duringthis final period that the last few chapters ofAll Quiet occur. By late 1917 Germany had won thewar in the East. In March 1918, Russia signed theharsh treaty of Brest-Litovsk, giving Germany hugechunks of its territory.
Russia’s withdrawalenabled Germany to transfer forces from the Eastand to mount a supreme effort to capture Paris.But by this time the United States was enteringthe war, and timing was essential to the Germanplan: the offensive had to succeed before Americantroops could reach the Western Front in sizablenumbers. Ludendorff, the German leader whodirected the operation, was prepared to lose oneminion men to win.He poured his efforts onto theBritish sector. The situation became so desperatethat the Allies stopped arguing among themselvesand established a unified command under MarshalFerdinand Foch. Nevertheless, at its height theGerman offensive came within 40 miles of Paris.Then in May 1918 American divisions poured in, andthe Allies fought back furiously.
In July theybroke through the new German lines and swept theCentral Powers back toward the pre-1914 frontiers.In the fall of 1918, German allies began tosurrender–in September the Bulgarians, in Octoberthe Turks. One by one, ethnic minorities withinAustria-Hungary began to proclaim independence,and on November 3 the Austrians capitulated.Germans were demoralized, and mutinies broke outin German fleets. There were revolts amongcivilians in Kiel and Hamburg.
In early Novemberthe German king or emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm, fledto Holland. Finally, on November 11, 1918, aGerman delegation appeared at Allied headquartersto request an armistice. Overall, the war wasfought at tremendous cost. Most tragic was theloss in lives. Known dead included 1.8 millionGerman soldiers and more than one million men eachfrom Russia, France, Austria-Hungary, the UnitedKingdom, and Italy. Even the U.S.
, latecomer tothe war, lost more than 100,000 men.Actualfatalities have been estimated as high as 13million. In addition, nearly 22 million men werewounded, 7 million of them permanently disabled ormutilated. More than 9 million civilians were alsokilled. The world of 1919 was stunned anduncertain. Ten years later the mood stilllingered. People wanted to understand what hadhappened but could not.
It is in that atmospherethat Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Frontappeared. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERNFRONT: THEMES In the short note that comes justbefore Chapter 1, Remarque lets us know exactlywhat theme he intends. He says that All Quiet onthe Western Front is the story of a generation ofyoung men who were destroyed by World War I–evenif they survived the shelling.
To arrive at afifth statement of this main theme, Remarqueweaves several related themes into the story. Theoutline that follows points out chapters you canread to see how he presents each idea. Remarqueincludes discussions among Paul’s group, andPaul’s own thoughts while he observes Russianprisoners of war (Chapters 3, 8, 9) to show thatno ordinary people benefit from a war.No matterwhat side a man is on, he is killing other menjust like himself, people with whom he might evenbe friends at another time. But Remarque doesn’tjust tell us war is horrible.
He also shows usthat war is terrible beyond anything we couldimagine. All our senses are assaulted: we seenewly dead soldiers and long-dead corpses tossedup together in a cemetery (Chapter 4); we hear theunearthly screaming of the wounded horses (Chapter4); we see and smell three layers of bodies,swelling up and belching gases, dumped into a hugeshell hole (Chapter 6); and we can almost touchthe naked bodies hanging in trees and the limbslying around the battlefield (Chapter 9). Thecrying of the horses is especially terrible.Horses have nothing to do with making war. Theirbodies gleam beautifully as they paradealong–until the shells strike them.To Paul,their dying cries represent all of nature accusingMan, the great destroyer. In later chapters Paulno longer mentions nature as an accuser but seemsto suggest that nature is simply there–rollingsteadily on through the seasons, paying noattention to the desperate cruelties of men toeach other.
This, too, shows the horror of war,that it is completely unnatural and has no placein the larger scheme of things. 2. A REJECTION OFTRADITIONAL VALUES In his introductory noteRemarque said that his novel was not anaccusation. But we have seen that it is, in manyplaces, exactly that.
This accusation–orrejection of traditional militaristic values ofWestern civilization–is impressed on the readerthrough the young soldiers, represented by Pauland his friends, who see military attitudes asstupid and who accuse their elders of betrayingthem. In an early chapter Paul admits that endlessdrilling and sheer harassment did help toughen hisgroup and turn them into soldiers. But he pointsout, often, how stupid it is to stick toregulations at the front–how insane this basicmilitary attitude becomes in life-and-deathsituations.
One such scene occurs in Chapter 1when Ginger, the cook, doesn’t want to let 80 meneat the food prepared for 150, no matter howhungry they are. Another occurs in Chapter 7 whenPaul is walking around in his hometown and a majorforces him to march double time and saluteproperly–a ridiculous display, considering whathe has just been through at the front. Theemptiness of all this spit and polish shows upagain in Chapter 9 when the men have to return thenew clothes they were issued for the Kaiser’sinspection: rags are what’s real at the front.Thebetrayal of the young by their elders becomes anissue on several occasions. In the first twochapters of the book we learn how misguided Paulwas by the teachings of parents and schoolmasters.We also see how older people cling to the Prussianmyth of the glory of military might when Paul goeshome on leave in Chapter 7. The Kaiser’s visit inChapter 9 adds some hints of Remarque’s specificdisillusionment with the leaders of his owncountry.
From a broad study of literature andworld history, we can see that these older peoplewere not individually to blame for their views.They were simply handing on what was handed on tothem. Still, we can also understand why Paul andhis friends are so bitterly disappointed and soangry to discover that their elders were wrong.
Most readers feel a little sad that young menshould consider the act of ridiculing adults theirgreatest goal in life, but we can also understandwhy they take revenge on Himmelstoss and Kantorek(Chapters 3 and 7). We even get a certain kick outof what they do, understanding their need to takeout their disappointment on someone they know.These situations are, in miniature, an acting outof the bitter anger and disillusionment Paul feelswhen he says in Chapter 10, “It must all be liesand of no account when the culture of a thousandyears could not prevent this stream of blood beingpoured out.” 3.FRIENDSHIP: THE ONLY ENDURINGVALUE The theme of comradeship occurs often andgives the novel both lighthearted and sad moments.In Chapter 5 it’s easy to overlook how the farmerfelt about having his property stolen and tochuckle aloud when Paul is struggling to capturethe goose! We appreciate the circle of warmth thatencloses him and Kat that night as they slowlycook and eat the goose, and then extend their warmcircle by sharing the leftovers with Kropp andTjaden. In Chapter 10 we enjoy their sharing ofthe pancakes and roast pig and fine club chairs atthe supply dump, and we understand why Paul fakesa high temperature to go to the same hospital asAlbert Kropp.
Friendship emerges as an even moreimportant theme at the front. In Chapters 10 and11 we see men helping wounded comrades at greatpersonal risk–or even, like Lieutenant Bertinck,dying for their friends. The handing on ofKemmerich’s fine yellow leather boots also acts asa symbol of friendship–a symbol we can almosttouch, and one that keeps us aware of how deeply asoldier feels the loss of each of his specialfriends.
We can understand how hearing the voicesof friends when one is lost (Chapter 9) or evenjust hearing their breathing during the night(Chapter 11) can keep a soldier going.We grievewith Paul and almost put down the book when Katdies. 4.
A GENERATION DESTROYED BY WORLD WAR ITaking all of the themes together and adding Pauland his friends’ hopeless discussions of what isleft for them to do after the war (Chapter 5), wecan conclude that Remarque succeeds in his maintheme: showing that Paul’s generation wasdestroyed by the Great War, as World War I wasthen called. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERNFRONT: STYLE AND STRUCTURE All Quiet on theWestern Front is, on the whole, a very serious andeven a grim novel. Remarque presents his messagethrough vivid description and imagery. The tone isnot overwhelmingly bitter.Two things stand out inRemarque’s style: his vivid word pictures and theway he balances contrasting scenes against eachother to make each one stand out. His descriptionsbring every chapter to life, whether he is showingus the glare of flares or the darkness beyond thetrenches, vicious rats or itchy lice, the steadydrumlike beat of bombardment or the piercingshrieks of shells and wounded.
His descriptionsalso include images of beauty and peace–usuallyin Paul’s thoughts–that make clear how awful thefront actually is. He converts a pair of boots, agoose, and the circle of light cast by campfiresinto symbols of friendship. And he uses similes toshow the brutality of war: the men fight likethugs, like wild beasts. The tanks pushrelentlessly forward like steel beasts squashingbugs.CH FAR FROM THE FRONT NEAR THE FRONT AT THEFRONT 1 Recollections: Second Company, school,Kantorek. down to 80 men, 2 Recollections:Kemmerich’s death Himmelstoss, in a fieldhospital. basic training The boots.
3Reminiscences: Kat’s skill at Himmelstoss.foraging. Theories 4 Barbed wire duty. The woundedhorses.The upturned graves.
5 Insubordination toHimmelstoss. Lack of post-war goals. The gooseincident. 6 Days upon days of trench warfare.Company down to 32 men. Westhus wounded.
7 Paulhome on The evening with leave. the French girls.9 The Kaiser’s visit. Paul’s killing of Duval inthe trench. 10 The hospital.
The supply dump. 11Starvation, lack of supplies, demoralization.Lossof Detering, Muller, Leer, Kat. 12 Paul’s death ona quiet day. Remarque’s use of contrast, gives anew meaning to the phrase “theater of war.
” Hekeeps us moving between the trenches and the restof the world. Even if Paul’s hometown is sufferingfrom war shortages, life there is safe andcomfortable compared with the front. Even thehospital, filled with wounded, offers clean sheetsand regular food–luxuries unimaginable at thefront lines. These contrasts help us to understandwhat is happening to the emotional life of theyoung soldier.The above chart will help you seemore clearly how Remarque uses contrasts.
Thefirst part of All Quiet dwells on what happened athome, far from the front, and what it is like nearthe front. The middle chapters actually take us tothe front and then pull us back several times–tocivilian life, to a camp behind the lines, to asupply dump, to a hospital–so that we too feelthe shock when we return, in the final chapters,to the unrelieved pressures of the front. Finally,Remarque’s style includes irony. We fullyappreciate how little value is attached to asingle human life by 1918 when we read the armyreport on the progress of the war on the day Pauldies: “All quiet on the Western Front.”^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: POINT OFVIEW Stories usually are told from the firstperson or the third person point of view. We getthese terms from grammar.
“I love” is a firstperson structure, “you love” is second person, and”he (or she) loves” is third person. A story istold in the first person when the narrator saysthat I or we are doing thus-and-so: someoneactually in the story is telling it. A thirdperson story uses the he or they approach; someunnamed person outside the story is observingothers doing something. Except for the very lasttwo paragraphs of the book, All Quiet on theWestern Front is written from the first personpoint of view.
The story is being told by someonewho is actually in it–Paul Baumer–not by someinvisible outsider. Remarque does switch to thirdperson in the last two paragraphs for an obviousreason: Paul cannot report his own death.Firstperson narration always has both advantages anddisadvantages. A big advantage is that we tend toidentify with the main character. In All Quiet wefeel as if we are right there with Paul,experiencing what he is seeing and hearing andfeeling. We almost think his thoughts, share hisideas.
First person narration makes the wholestory seem direct and real and honest. On theother hand, first person narration also limits usto knowing and seeing only what the narrator–inthis case, Paul–knows and sees.We get other newsand views and opinions only as he filters them andreports them to us. In the case of All Quiet, Paulis young and immature. Until he enlisted, he hadnever experienced real pain or tragedy in hislife. Older people generally know from experiencethat human beings can survive incredible pain andstill find meaning in life. Paul hasn’t had anytime to gain that kind of experience to sustainhim. Therefore it’s asking quite a bit to have usaccept, from him, whole theories about war andlife and the nature of human beings.
Still,whatever Paul might lack in age or experience isbalanced for us by the honesty and sensitivity wesee in him. Over all, then, in All Quiet on theWestern Front, the advantages of first personnarration outweigh the disadvantages. There is aperfect fit of first person point of view withwhat Remarque wanted to say about World WarI–that it destroyed a whole generation of theyoung. How better to show us that than to let usexperience the war through the eyes of a youngsoldier? ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT:FORM When critics use the word form to discuss anovel, they sometimes mean its overall style andstructure–the elements already presented underthat heading in this guidebook.
Another meaning ofform is the category a novel falls into–how itshould be classified, what kind of fiction it is.You yourself use from in this narrow, secondmeaning when you say that you like to readmysteries or westerns or romances or some otherkind of story. But if someone asked you what kindof book All Quiet is, you would find that it justdoesn’t fit standard classifications.You mightsay it’s a war story–but it’s a lot more thanthat. It’s also a story about a boy turning into adisillusioned adult, or perhaps a story tellingsociety that it ought to eliminate the great evilof war.
The standard categories simply do notexpress all that. The best term for a novel inwhich everything depends on a specific war settingis historical novel. Charles Dickens’ A Tale ofTwo Cities, set during the French Revolution, isan example. All Quiet does happen during World WarI, but Remarque doesn’t dwell on historicaldetails such as names of battles.
Instead heconcentrates much more on what any war does topeople. Usually a novel in which a young personmatures by passing through some kind of crisis iscalled a novel of formation or a novel ofinitiation. This fits Stephen Crane’s The RedBadge of Courage, in which Henry Fleming startsout as a naive boy, expecting war to be glorious,only to find how terrible it is. It also fits AllQuiet to some extent, but not as well–by the timethe book begins, Paul has already becomedisillusioned enough to call 70 deaths a”miscalculation.” If you see All Quiet as a noveltelling society something wrong ought to bechanged–in this case, war–you could trysociological novel, but again the label seemssomehow off.
It fits a book against slavery likeHarriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin butseems to express only one element of All Quiet.All in all, form as classification is simply toonarrow and artificial for this book. With AllQuiet, you are better off using the word form inits broad senses meaning style and structure.AllQuiet can be described as a novel made up ofdramatic scenes, vivid language, and a series ofcontrasting episodes that make us feel how totallydestructive war is. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THEWESTERN FRONT: AUTHOR’S NOTE Remarque begins hisbook with a note before the first chapter. In ithe says that his book “is to be neither anaccusation nor a confession, and least of all anadventure,” but rather an account of a generationof young men who were destroyed by the war–WorldWar I–“even though they may have escaped itsshells.” What does he mean? Biography and historytell us his situation.
By 1929 when his book cameout, World War I had been over for ten years, butit was still affecting people like him and hisfriends, who had gone from the schoolroom rightinto the trenches. Many of them survived, but theyfelt as if a shadow still hung over their lives.After all that time, they still hadn’t been ableto sort out their feelings about the war. Remarquesays that he doesn’t want to accuse or blameanyone, that he certainly doesn’t have anythingnew to confess, and that he is definitely nottrying to write an adventure story–the kind ofwar story that’s full of heroes and waving flags.If all of that is what we should not expect, thenwhat should we expect? Well, if he means what hesays, he’s going to let the story itself show usjust exactly what was so destructive about WorldWar I.Maybe it’s the deaths of friends; maybeit’s the loss of ideals. We’ll need to read thebook to find out.
But we can expect every chapterto tell us something to support his theme: thatthe First World War destroyed even those who camethrough it alive. ^^^^^^^^^^ALL QUIET ON THEWESTERN FRONT: CHAPTER 1 The very first paragraphtakes us within five miles of the front lines. Themen are resting on the ground, having just stuffedthemselves with beef and beans (the cook is stiffdishing out more).
There are double rations ofbread and sausage besides, and tobacco is soplentiful that everyone can get hispreference–cigarets, cigars, or chews.Whoever istelling the story is right there, in it; this iswhat is called first person narration. But thenarrator (we soon find out that he’s 19 years oldand his name is Paul Baumer) makes clear that thewhole situation is incredible:–“We have not hadsuch luck as this for a long time.
” Where did thewindfall come from? Paul says, “We have only amiscalculation to thank for it.” It turns out thatthe quartermaster sent, and the cook prepared,food for the full Second Company–150 men. But 70were killed at the end of a quiet two-week missionwhen the English suddenly opened up withhigh-explosive field guns. Before we can stop tothink about Paul’s dismissing all those deaths asa miscalculation, he backs up to tell the wholestory of how they nearly had to riot to get allthat food and tobacco. The cook, it seems, didn’tcare about the count; he just didn’t want to giveany man more than a single share. In the course ofretelling how their noise brought the companycommander, who finally ordered the cook to serveeverything, Paul introduces all his friends.They’re an assorted lot: first, three of hisclassmates from school–Muller, the bookworm,Albert Kropp, the sharp thinker, and bearded Leerwho likes officers’ brothels.
Then there are threeother 19-year-olds: the skinny locksmith Tjaden,the farmer Detering, and the peat-digger HaieWesthus. Finally he names an older soldier–thegroup’s shrewd, 40-year-old leader, a man with aremarkable nose for food and soft jobs, StanislausKatczinsky. NOTE: From their names we see thatthese major characters are German, but it reallydoesn’t matter. They could just as well be Frenchor English, so far as their experiences areconcerned. At this point we don’t really know ifPaul, the narrator, is as cold and unfeeling as heappears.
He and his friends seem to care much moreabout food than about the lives of theircompanions.Is Remarque indirectly telling us thatwar reduces people to animals? Or are the men justbeing realistic? We’ll have to wait and see. Theday continues to be “wonderfully good,” says Paul,because their mail catches up with them. But oneletter angers them. It’s from their schoolmaster,Kantorek, who pumped them all so full of the gloryof fighting for their country that they marcheddown to the district commandant together andenlisted.
The only one who had to be persuaded washomely Josef Behm, and he’s dead already–thefirst of their class to fall. Paul doesn’t blameKantorek personally for Behm’s death, but he doesblame the “thousands of Kantoreks” who were sosure their view of the coming war was the rightone.We were only 18, he says; we trusted ourteachers and our parents to guide us, and “theylet us down so badly.
” He seems to be saying thatthe war has cut them adrift from a meaningfullife, with no new values to replace the old ones.All the young soldiers know for sure is that it’sgood to have a full belly or a good smoke. Thefriends go over to visit Franz Kemmerich, aclassmate who is dying after a leg amputation.Muller turns out to be totally crude and tactless.Kemmerich is dying, and Muller rattles on aboutKemmerich’s stolen watch and just who will getKemmerich’s fine English leather boots. Paul, onthe other hand, recalls Kemmerich’s mother, cryingand begging Paul to look after Franz as they leftfor the front.
To Paul, Kemmerich still looks likea child accidentally poured into a militaryuniform. Perhaps war hasn’t blunted hissensitivity yet, but Muller’s crudeness shocks us.As they leave the dressing station, it is obviousthat Kropp, like Paul, is still brimful offeelings. Erupting into anger, he hurls hiscigaret to the ground and mutters, “Damned swine!”He is thinking of the leaders who sent them intobattle and of people like Kantorek calling waifslike Kemmerich “Iron Youth.” “Youth!” thinks Paul.”That is long ago.
We are old folk.” NOTE: THEROMANTIC VIEW OF WAR From history we know that theKantoreks passionately believed the ideals theytaught their children and students. World War Ibroke out in what seems to us a largely innocentworld, a world that still associated warfare withglorious cavalry charges and the noble pursuit ofheroic ideals. Everyone–Allies and Central Powersalike–expected a quick, clean war with a gloriousaftermath. Most Europeans, not just Germans, sawwar as the adventure of a lifetime.