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
novel. Previously, I understood the diplomacy and the military
strategies involved with this war, but I have now also been
exposed to the physical and foremost mental anguish that the
soldiers on the front experienced. I had never thought about a
soldier\'s loss of identity when leaving behind all of the values,
schooling, and family