All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on The Western Front – The Generation That Was Destroyed By The War
This book is about A young man of nineteen who served in the German army on the French front during World War I. Paul and several of his school friends volunteered to join the military after listening to their instructor Kantorek’s inspiring patriotic speeches. But after 10 weeks of brutal training by the tiny, cruel Corporal Himmelstoss and the unthinkable brutality of life at the front.
Following two weeks of fighting, just eighty men from the initial 150-man company return from the front when Paul’s company receives a short relief. The cook doesn’t want to give the survivors the rations intended for the dead men, but eventually agrees to do so; the men enjoy a great meal. Paul and his friends are visiting Kemmerich, a former classmate who had a leg amputated recently.
The company is being strengthened by a group of new recruits, and Paul’s friend Kat is producing a beef and bean stew that will impress them. Kat says wars would be over immediately if all the men in an army, including the officers, were paid the same wage and given the same food. Kropp, another of the former classmates of Paul, says there should be no armies; he suggests that the representatives of a country should be there.
Modern medicine knows more about post-traumatic stress disorder, but in Remarque’s day it was unchartered water. His point of view – similar to the common soldier of any nation – provides the reader with insights concerning the shocking events that led to the alienation and displacement of his entire age-group. Remarque’s words brought swift reactions in postwar Germany and positive responses from critics.
Although the German government – particularly the Third Reich – banned Remarque’s book and often burned it because it dared to criticize the government and militarism, Western critics were largely positive about his novel. Their pre-World War II words – a time when military leaders optimistically predicted the end of international aggression – addressed the poignancy of the First World War.
Notwithstanding the words of Remarque and the millions of readers who have read his novel over the years, the modern era has seen great cataclysms redefining the war’s inhumanity with technological innovations that the generation of Remarque could never have imagined. The Second World War, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Seven-Day War in Israel, Russia’s assault on Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf War.
As the German army begins to give in to the unrelenting pressure of the Allied forces, Paul’s friends are killed in combat one by one. Detering, one of Paul’s close friends, attempts to desert but is caught and court-martialed. Kat is killed when a piece of shrapnel slices his head open while Paul is carrying him to safety. By the fall of 1918, Paul is the only one of his circle of friends who is still alive. Soldiers everywhere whisper that the Germans will soon surrender and that peace will come. Paul is poisoned in a gas attack and given a short leave. He reflects that, when the war ends, he will be ruined for peacetime; all he knows is the war. In October 1918, on a day with very little fighting, Paul is killed. The army report for that day reads simply: “All quiet on the Western Front.” Paul’s corpse wears a calm expression, as though relieved that the end has come at last.
As the German army continues to surrender to the Allied forces ‘ relentless pressure, Paul’s friends are killed one by one in battle. Detering, one of the close friends of Paul, is trying to desert but is caught and court-martial. When a piece of shrapnel cuts his head open as Paul takes him to safety, Kat is killed. Paul was the only one of his circle of friends by the fall of 1918.
All Quiet On The Western Front Test
Throughout the Book, What is One Character Trait Shown by Paul
Answer- Paul is a character in the book All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul shows many character traits but one stands out. Throughout the book, Paul shows compassion to nearly everyone he meets. In Chapter 8, Paul says, “I know nothing about them (Russian Prisoners) except that they are prisoners…Their life is obscure and guiltless.” Later in the chapter, the author writes that, “I take out my cigarettes, break each one in half and give them to the Russians.” This shows that Paul feels compassion for the prisoners by the way he talks about them and the way he helps them by giving them his cigarettes for free. Paul shows a lot of character traits, but compassion is definitely one of those character traits.
What Effect Does the War Have on Paul?
Answer- War has an effect on Paul in a major way. The war kills Paul mentally before it kills him physically. In chapter 12, Paul says, “Had we returned home in 1916, out of the suffering and strength of our experience, we might have unleashed a storm. Now if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope. We will not be able to find our way anymore.” This says that because of the war, Paul has lost all will to basically live. This is shown through the way he describes the feeling’s he will experience when he returns. Paul was killed physically due to the war he fought in, but before he was physically killed, Paul was already mentatlly and spiritually dead.
What is the Theme of All Quiet on the Western Front?
Answer-There are many themes in the book All Quiet on the Western Front, but one theme overlies the others. The main theme for this book is the brutality and horror that is war in general. This book portrays war as it truly is. This is shown throughout the book where soldiers are imprisoned into the army against their will and end up giving their lives. In chapter 12, Paul says, “There are not many old hands left. I am the last of the seven fellows from my class.” Paul is the last survivor from his class. War is extremely brutal, but seeing all of Paul’s friends die, some in his arms, for a cause they don’t really believe in shows the horror that is war. War is not a pleasant thing, the novel truly shows how brutal and hostile war can be for people caught in the middle of it all.
How is Nationalism Shown in This Novel?
Answer- Nationalism has been around for as long as there have been nations, there will always be nationalism in the world, and this story is no exception. Nationalism is shown throughout the whole novel but especially when recruiting people to fight. In chapter one, Paul says, “Kantorek had been our schoolmaster…I can see him now, as he used to glare at us through his spectacles and say in a moving voice: Won’t you join up comrades.” Paul also says, “There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced they were acting for the best.” This shows that people in power were using their position to incite nationalism within the teens. This lead to many people joining the cause for war. Nationalism was used to incite teens to go fight for their country.
What Changes in Himmelstoss’s Character After he Experiences Battle on the Front Lines?
Answer- Himmelstoss’s character changes majorly after he experiences battle on the front lines in the trenches. Before his experience on the front lines Himmelstoss abuses his power and is hated. Himmelstoss is hated so much it leads to his own men attacking him. After experiencing the front lines, Himmelstoss is much nicer to his troops. In chapter 7, Paul says, “After a couple days Himmelstoss comes up to us…and wants to get on good terms with us…I saw how he brought Haie Westhus in when he was hit in the back.” This shows how much Himmelstoss changed due to his warfare in the trenches of the front line. Himmelstoss went from a man who abused his power and was hated to a man who used his power to help his troops and was respected by his peers.
All Quiet On Western Front Movie Review
All Quiet on the Western Front is a movie based on the book of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque published in 1929. There were two versions of the move. The first version was released in 1930, quickly after the book was published, and was directed by Lewis Milestone. The second version was made in 1979 and directed by Delbert Mann. This version was rated R for the violence in the battle scenes. There was no rating system in 1930. The book and both movies are considered fine examples of anti-war sentiments. Until Saving Private Ryan released in 1998, this film was considered the most realistic in its portrayal of the horrors, gore, violence and trauma that actually takes place in war.
The movie is narrated by Paul Bäumer and follows the lives of Bäumer and nineteen of his classmates in Germany. Each of the main characters is brought to life through flashbacks of their youth and what each loved. Their love of law, theology, art, poetry, farming, science and even peat digging distinguish one from the other. The boys’ professor pushes them to serve the Fatherland as it embarks upon a great war. Upon graduation, all are drafted into the Army. These fun-loving, care-free young men are enthusiastic and willing participants. We see them nattily dressed and singing while marching into the military training center. Remarque’s words that open the film spell their fate in stark terms: “A generation of men who, even those who escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.”
All of these boys are brought to task when their training begins. It becomes especially daunting when the postman they taunted in their town is the corporal who trains them. Corporal Himmelstoss is a sadistic trainer, who gets even for all the tricks the boys played on him back home. Despite this, the camaraderie of the boys carries through, and they are sent off to the Western Front where Germany and France are at war.
They are met by Kat, a wizened and experienced soldier who will lead their platoon. He tells them to forget everything they learned in training. This is a trench war where artillery is the main killer. He tells them they have seconds to make a decision to hit the ground and perhaps save their lives. After each shelling, the men rise from the trenches for hand-to-hand combat. Disillusionment sets in fast. New menaces appear in the form of flames throwers and poison gas. The battle scenes are raw and violent. The battlefields are littered with bodies; it’s a bloody, muddy terrain. They are hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, sleep deprived and in poor physical shape as the movie progresses. When the boys wonder what they are fighting for, Kat tells them: “The only reason we’re fighting this war is it’s useful to somebody”.
In one scene, Bäumer stabs a French soldier who falls into his foxhole. Although alleged enemies, Bäumer tends to the soldier’s wounds. He realizes that,except for the uniforms, they would be brothers. He muses that “they” don’t want them to know they’re the same; they have mothers; they are afraid of pain and dying. He asks forgiveness from the soldier as he dies.
A number of the boys are either wounded or killed as the movie progresses from scene to scene. Paul Bäumer is wounded and hospitalized and is given leave to go home once he recovers. He doesn’t recognize his once beautiful village. It is lacking in food; its citizens disillusioned and only women and old men occupy it. All the young men and fathers have been drafted. While home, Paul sits in his room, rifling through his old drawings. He writes a letter to his mother as he’s leaving: “Mother, I am no longer what I was when I lived in this room. I am a soldier. My business is not reading; it is killing…I know now I should never have come back…Out there all men think as I do. There is no argument about the meaning of life because it has no meaning…” He tears up the letter and returns to the front. He has lost nearly everyone from his class. Thirteen are dead, four are missing and one is in the madhouse. In his last act of heroism, he attempts to save Kat who dies while being carried by Bäumer to the hospital. In the end, Paul Bäumer is also shot dead just a communique dated October 11, 1918 is received stating: “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
This movie mirrors what was happening at home in Germany. When it was first apparent that Germany was going to war with Russia and France, there was great support for the effort. The August Days, as they were called, were rife with enthusiasm for this war. According to Fritzsche, “What the kaiser called the Burgfrieden, the ‘peace of the fortress’ promised to solve the divisions between workers and the middle classes…”. This promise extended to the disparities between Catholics and Protestants as well as socialists and conservatives. There was a sense of community and a false sense that it would be a quick and easy war similar to the Franco-Prussian conflict. Like the young recruits singing as they marched to training camp, the Germans whistled their way to WWI. However, the reality of war fairly quickly eroded the Germans’ enthusiasm. By the end of June 1914, there was either a lack of food or inflated prices, which continued to grow while wages were stagnant even with the war machine creating jobs. Women were displaced from home and forced into working. Coal, their main source of heat, was scarce and expensive if found. The villages were full of very young boys, old men and women. Every other male had been conscripted into the Army. Disillusionment was complete.
Just as the soldiers wanted for food, so did the German citizens. “It was no surprise, then, that in the summer of 1915 Hamburg’s private charities and municipal offices operated 58 soup kitchens serving 30,000 portions every day”. Rationing was introduced. By the winter of 1916-17, there were “little more than turnips to eat”. As Bäumer and his classmates felt betrayed by their professors and their superiors in the military, the Germans left at home felt the same betrayal. Promised a quick war with glorious success, both the military and the civilians found that an empty covenant. The riches brought on by rapid industrialization; the lessening of disparity between workers and employers; the pride and nationalism growing before the war…all were casualties of WWI.
Bäumer’s story was one of death and dying with no apparent positive dividend. Fritzsche’s view, on the other hand, was that some positive effects rose from the ashes of all that death and deprivation. “The German people had gotten a glimpse of themselves as a national compact that existed independently of the monarch and rested on the achievements of ordinary citizens and soldiers’. In this way, Fritzsche believed that the Germans had gained self-reliance and public spiritedness and would fashion their own “cohesive Germany”.
A Soldiers Change in All Quiet On The Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque describes the school-aged German soldier Paul Bäumer’s involvement in World War I. The book shows how he and his comrades changed during the war. From their early time in training to their deaths towards the end of the war. However, rather than idealistically show us how Paul patriotically fights for his country on free will and is rewarded, we see quite the opposite. By the end of the book, we understand the point Remarque is trying to make. He shows us the true horrors of war, past the propaganda and politics. We see perfectly good young minds with aspirations, hopes, and dreams crushed by war. The savagery of battle forces the soldiers to develop animalistic instincts and unbreakable friendships to survive. The soldiers are consumed with the instinct to survive, turning them from bright scholars into animals hellbent on survival.
The first few pages stress how war destroys all individuality into one, shared personality. Most comparable war books are narrated in the first-person by the main character ( Paul), starting with the protagonist reflecting on their development from an untrained recruit into a soldier. However, Paul begins his account by using the third-person to describe not only himself but his fellow soldiers as well. From the start, Paul is absorbed by the troop, a troop reduced to physical functions and gluttonous animal-like appetites. The third-person dominates this first chapter as the soldiers think with a single personality, moved by the same common desires. Such as hunger, excitement, and impatience. The emotions that concern the troop are not spurred. from human personalities, but rather from the most basic of animal needs with which all humans are pre-programmed with. What unifies the soldiers, we discover, are not abstract thinking and complex emotions, but the stomach and the intestines—full bellies and general latrines.
In order to tolerate the horrors of war, Paul must alter his feelings and empathy, so all that remains is, a “human animal.” In Chapter Seven, Paul recounts how he must separate himself from his emotions and rely solely on perfunctory, animal instincts. In war, the characteristics which make a person human can certainly cost a soldier his sanity, if not his life. As Paul states it; The attributes that compose the human experience—are “ornamental enough during peacetime.” A soldier must discard his immediate emotional impulses to survive, but he must also discard his remembrance of the past and hopes for the future. The war becomes the sole focal point of his world and attention. His identity before (writer Paul) or after becomes a stinging distraction. The only things that matter on the battlefields of World War I are the immediate physical threats: shells, gas, bullets, and machine guns.
The soldiers are animalistic in the way that they reject human emotions and live attentively in the present. Also, in the vicious struggle for power through the practice of brute force. In seeing how a seemingly unassertive postman like Himmelstoss could become such a tyrant, Kat, explains that the army’s hierarchy stirs the animals concealed within human beings. Kat argues that civilization is just a facade, and humans are more similar to animals than they would like to admit. When viciously beating Himmelstoss, Paul illustrates through actions Kat’s point by displaying behavior more fitted to a savage animal rather than to a logical individual.
If, as Kat says, it is the arrangement of the army that is accountable for bringing out the soldiers’ collective animal side, then perhaps the end of the war will enable the soldiers to return to normal (their individual personalities). For Paul, the thought of the wars’ end doesn’t seem to guarantee a seamless re-introduction to civilized human society. Paul believes that a return to civilized society will be an exceedingly changing experience, one in which “others will not understand” him and in which veterans of his generation will become “superfluous.” His war experience has excluded Paul from the general civilian community, and now the only form of community he can rely on is the animalism of his fellow soldiers. As Paul voices his fear that his generation will fail to “adapt” to the civilized world, his use of Darwinian language draws a final link between the human and animal kingdoms, suggesting that war not only turns the soldier from a human individual into an animal, but that by doing so it ineradicably alters the individual’s ability to relate to other humans.
The Use Of Symbolism in All Quiet On The Western Front
Friendship is one of the key themes in the novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, which takes place behind the German frontlines during World War I. Erich Maria Remarque uses symbolic events in order to portray the importance of relationships between soldiers and the historical situation. Several soldiers of the Second Company-Paul Baumer, Stanilaus Katczinsky (Kat), Franz Kemmerich, Muller, and Detering- are involved in the events that shape the way in which friendships are taken on and formed, and also how the brutality of war affects them. The passing down of Kemmerich’s boots, the screaming of the wounded horses, and the goose incidents are the primary events in All Quiet on the Western Front that are used to exemplify the true meaning of friendship and demonstrate how difficult the historical situation is for the soldiers.
Kemmerich’s boots are handed on from one soldier to another as each possessor passes away. Originally, Kemmerich stole the boots from the corpse of a dead airman, but he is now lying in his deathbed after having his leg amputated. Once Muller finds out that Kemmerich is dying, he begins planning his attaining of the boots. To most people, this type of scheming would seem rude and unthoughtful, but to these soldiers, it is different. Paul says, “Kemmerich will die; it is immaterial who gets them. Why, then, should Muller not succeed them? When Kemmerich is dead it will be too late” (21). Paul ends up taking the boots to Muller after Kemmerich dies, and later receives them himself when Muller is killed from being shot. Thus, the boots are representing how cheap human life actually is during war. Because these boots are lasting longer than a human, they seem to be more valued than someone’s life. The boots also symbolize the essential practicality that a soldier needs to have. They cannot display their emotions during the brutality of war; instead, they must block out sorrow and desolation, almost like a robot. These soldiers live together and create strong friendships. Every day their friends are taken away from them, so if they do not learn how to control their emotions, they will be too weak and depressed to stay in the right mind and put up the best battle they have. These soldiers live and suffer together. Therefore, strong friendships grow and losing one another is an unbearable thing to have to deal with. So instead of being upset about the loss of a friend, they look forward to a pair of boots.
While in the field, the men hear the sounds of screaming horses. When Detering realizes what is happening, he demands that the horse be shot and killed. He felt that he should put the innocent horse out of their misery instead of letting them suffer. Although, no one was allowed to do so because it would give away their position to the enemy. Detering gives up and says, “Like to know what harm they’ve done” (64). Later, Paul helps a young soldier when he becomes injured because a coffin lands on top of him after it is blown up by the shelling. Paul ends up shooting him to put him out of his misery, just as Detering wanted to do to the horses. Detering simply wanted to relieve the innocent of their pain because they did nothing wrong, just like the young soldier. Even though Paul does not know the young soldier, he knows that what he has done is for the best.
The food that soldiers are provided during war is neither plentiful nor tasteful. One night, Kat and Paul hear the cackle of geese. They decide that geese will make a delicious meal, so they later coax a weapon wagon driver to take them back to the place where they believe the geese are. Once they arrive, Paul walks around and finds two geese. He tries to kill them quickly by slamming their heads against the wall, but he does not succeed, so Kat comes in and completes the job. Both men return back to cook the geese and gulp them down so that they do not get caught. As they sit there cooking and eating the geese, Paul describes, “We sit opposite one another, Kat and I, two soldiers in shabby coats, cooking a goose in the middle of the night. We don’t talk much, but I believe we have a more complete communion with one another than even lovers have. We are two men, two minute sparks of life; outside is the night and the circle of death. We sit on the edge of it crouching in danger, the grease drips from our hands, in our hearts we are close to one another…What does he know of me or I of him? formerly we should not have had a single thought in common–now we sit with a goose between us and feel in unison, are so intimate that we do not even speak” (94). Paul and Kat hardly knew each other before the goose incident, but now they seem to have a special connection with each other. This novel demonstrates how important it is for soldiers to have someone who will have their back. Now, both Paul and Kat have that.
All Quiet on the Western Front – Character Analysis of Paul Baumer in the Novel by Erich Maria Remarque
Paul Is A Well-Developed Character
Paul Baumer is the character that gives us front row seats to the show. He’s the one that gives us the information for all the characters that he meets. He’s the one who describes the war as if you were sitting right beside him in the trench. Paul can be that guy that could kick back and relax and have a beer and cigar with you or he can be a type of leader that puts you right into the action and end up saving your life. That’s why Paul could be considered a well developed character instead of a one dimensional character. Throughout the book Remarque made Paul the type of character that flat out reports to the audience what is happening.
For example when Paul and Albert are in the hospital together after getting injured from an attack, he will describe what is happening to him and also the others around him that are being sent to the dying room. This is an example of a well developed character because Remarque did not make Paul that type of narrator that only tells what the others are saying and doing or just telling the setting and the moods of the story. Remarque made it so it seems like Paul is the guy that everybody wants to be around even though he is just trying to live another day. Remarque also shows that Paul can be a well developed character when he runs into the trench and sees the man dying fall into the trench with him. Paul goes from scared to death to being a helping man when he tries to save the fallen soldier from death. If Paul was a one dimensional character than none of this wouldn’t happen because Paul risked his life and volunteered for the job that Kat sent him out to do.
Also, some soldiers write diaries to their family or friends but instead of Remarque making Paul just a normal one dimensional soldiers he has Paul just tells us how he lost his friend instead of writing about it. Remarque also makes Paul a type of leader between his friend group also. If you noticed there really isn’t much tension or fighting between the young men as they’ve been with each other for a very long time starting with the beginning of high school. Paul is not a one dimensional character in any way.
Also, Paul isn’t the type of guy like Tjaden that has no respect for the authority running the war, Paul is the type of guy that will have respect for them once they are in front of him, but when they leave Paul and his friends will make fun the authority saying how short and mean they are. That is a type of person that isn’t one sided or just flat out boring. That’s what makes Paul such a great character because he is well rounded, he has a great personality, and he makes a great leader helping the new recruits stay alive in their time being called up.
An Analysis of the Two Themes in All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
AQWF Section Analysis Pages 85-88
The scene when the soldiers are discussing how school never prepared them for war in All Quiet on the Western Front shows two of the novel’s themes, which are that war ruined them and that they were not prepared for war. The soldiers show that war has ruined them when they say that they can’t go back into society after the war. They also show that they were not prepared for war when Paul states all the things school didn’t teach them.
The author uses symbolism and breaks the 4th wall to show these big ideas. Some of them didn’t have jobs before the war, making it harder for them to resume their lives when the war ends. Jobs are used as a symbol in this passage of the book to show that these soldiers had lives before the war and that they are normal, everyday people. Kat, Deterring, Hair, and Himmelstoss all had jobs before that war, and the others are saying that when the war ends, it will be easier for them to resume their lives from before the war even started. “Kat and Deterring and Hair will go back to their jobs because they had them already. Himmelstoss too. How will we ever get used to one after this, here?” Albert says this to show without jobs before the war, the others are afraid that it will be harder to resume their prewar lives. This connects to what soldiers were worried about in the world during the war. Soldiers were worried about their lives before the war, and if they will even have one after the war. The author breaks the 4th wall by using the soldiers to ask questions to show their confusion. The soldiers ask questions like “When was the battle of Zana?” and “How many inhabitants has Melbourne?” The author does this to show that they are indeed The Lost Generation. The syntax in this passage is the repetition of questions, showing what little the soldiers know about certain things. The author does this to further show that the soldiers are The Lost Generation. One of the big ideas of this passage, that they were not prepared for war, is shown when Paul says how school never taught them about war or how to fight. “At school nobody ever taught us how to light a cigarette in a storm or rain, nor how a fire could be made with wet wood — nor that it is best to stick a bayonet in the belly because there it doesn’t get jammed, as it does in the ribs.” They had to learn “how to light a cigarette in a storm or rain,” “how a fire could be made with wet wood,” and that “it is best to stick a bayonet in the belly because there it doesn’t get jammed.”
This passage in All Quiet on the Western Front shows two of the novel’s many themes, which are that war ruined the soldiers and that they were not prepared for war. The soldiers are worried about their lives after the war and are left in the middle of this war confused about what will happen to them.
A Lost Generation in All Quiet in the Western Front
In the novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque demonstrates, through the character of Paul Baumer, how war has obliterated almost an entire generation of men. Because these men no longer retain a place in life and are incapable of relating with former generations, they are collectively referred to in history as the “lost generation.” Remarque emphasizes Paul’s leave and the linguistic differences between the two generations to show how Paul comes to the realization that he is part of this lost generation.
Ironically, Paul’s leave is unfortunate, yet serves an important purpose in showing how far apart Paul has grown from his family and past youth. During his leave, Paul learns of his incapability in communicating with former generations due to his war experiences. Remarque shows that Paul no longer feels any relation with civilian life as soon as Paul enters his hometown. For example, when Paul gets off the train, he encounters a redcross sister who calls him “comrade,” but he thinks to himself: “…I will have none of it” (156). Paul replies in this negative manner because he feels angered by her attempt to associate with him by calling him a “comrade.” Paul knows that only soldiers at the front can call each other comrades since they have experienced the brutality of war together. By calling Paul a comrade, she represents the former generation’s misuse of language because she does not know the true meaning of camaraderie in war, but tries to use it anyway.
This lack of association with civilian life Paul feels carries over into his house. When his mother greets him, he immediately realizes he cannot say anything: “We say very little and I am thankful that she asks nothing. What ought to I say?” (159). This serves as a sign showing Paul’s loss of communication with former generations, for even when his mother then asks him about the front: “Was it very bad out there, Paul?” (161), he replies with compassion by saying: “No, Mother, not so very. There are always a lot of us together so it isn’t so bad” (161). However, the main reason he does this is not to protect his mother from fear, but because he is aware that the effort in trying to explain to her the horrors of war would be useless. If he tried to describe what he has experienced on the front to her, she could not possibly comprehend his descriptions of his pain and suffering. Also, putting these experiences into words provides a challenge to Paul, as the language of war would be meaningless and empty to the former generation. However, by not telling the truth, he deepens the gap between him and his mother. During the course of his leave, Paul is also reluctant to speak to his father about the war. This shows a further movement away from the past and more into his isolated and lost generation.
Remarque also uses even the smallest incidents on Paul’s leave to show how Paul notices the generation gap. Paul’s father asks Paul to keep his army uniform on, but Paul refuses because he sees no purpose in doing so. When Paul puts on his “civilian” clothes, he notices they have grown too tight and that he cannot fit properly into them. These clothes represent his old civilian life, and, similarly, just as he cannot fit into his clothes, he also cannot fit back into his former social role. Because of these various incidents, Paul realizes that things will never be that same again with both his parents. Paul faces similar difficulties when he encounters other members of his hometown: “They are different men here, men I cannot properly understand…” (169). Again, he cannot relate to these people, who have been disillusioned by the war because, he suggests, they have not truly experienced it as Paul has. He realizes that their language contains nothing but emptiness; thus, it serves no purpose to his generation since it does not accurately portray the reality of war and the inner experiences of those who have lived it.
In addition to not being able to communicate with his family, he also loses a connection with his youth. Remarque develops the idea of how Paul has also lost his youth through the butterfly collection and old books. Paul recalls his old butterfly collection: “Above me on the wall hangs the glass case with coloured butterflies that once I collected” (158). The hard glass case keeps the butterflies, which symbolize Paul’s youth and innocence, preserved. However, he cannot reach in and touch the butterflies just like his youth because of the hard case around the butterflies. War has created a similar hard case around Paul, which holds him back from being able to integrate back into his former self and society in general. He also attempts to seek his youth through books: “I want that quiet rapture again. I want to feel the same powerful, nameless urge that I used to feel when I turned to my books. The breath of desire…shall fill me again…it shall bring back again that lost eagerness of my youth” (171). The books also symbolize the older, more peaceful time, in which the innocent Paul possessed hopes and goals to lead a happy life. However, he realizes that his efforts to relate to his past are abortive because of how much war has broken him apart from his former youth, so he turns away despondently. The books are now useless because the words in them are empty and meaningless to Paul and his generation. The pre-enlistment world becomes even more alien to Paul, as when he thinks to himself: “A terrible feeling of foreignness suddenly rises up in me. I cannot find my way back, I am shut out though I entreat earnestly and put forth all my strength” (172). Even with full effort, he cannot engender any sort of connection with his past youth due to the recent experiences with the horrors and other realities of war.
Paul feels further lost as the days proceed one another during his leave. Near the end of his leave, Remarque creates a very significant scene between Paul and his mother as Paul sadly pleads: “Ah! Mother, Mother! how can it be that I must part from you? Who else is there that has any claim on me but you? Here I sit and there you are lying; we have so much to say, and we shall never say it” (184). This is the ultimate scene where Paul gives a final farewell to his mother and her generation. Paul feels as if there is so much he has to say to her, but he cannot because she can no longer relate to his language. Paul’s generation has lost its dreams, hopes, youth, innocence, and everything else it may have possessed in its former life. It dreads the times during war just as much as the thought of what to do during post-war era because of the generation gap. Paul realizes that life will never be the same again and that he does not belong anywhere because of the brutal war.
Remarque’s use of Paul’s leave shows how Paul learns that he is part of the lost generation. Through the interaction with his family members, Paul realizes that he no longer fits in with them and never will be able to. Because of the war, Paul’s generation has lost the idea of a meaningful world in which compassion exists for the individual. This entire generation of men is incapable of integrating back into society and no longer retains a place in collective life; thus, it is referred to in history as the lost generation.
Analysis of The Novels, A Farewell To Arms And All Quiet On The Western Front, With A View On Quest For Normality
How far does the literature of the First World War depict a search for normality despite the fact that the war has questioned ‘civilised values’?
For many of those who took part in the First World War, ‘normality’ was not found until much after the war. Shortly after the publication of novels such as All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms, many of its readers spoke out in defence of war literature, stating that these novels represent an ‘Erlosung’, or release, from the traumas of war. It can be considered that the literature itself of this nature can help find this normality, and sort out “the tangled memories and emotions of the Great War, and to come to terms with them.” (Barker 1979, p. 48).
Since such novels based in the war are considered to be helpful to veterans, it is important to note that there are a number of events in these novels whereby a person is in search of a new purpose. Most remarkably is a statement from All Quiet on the Western Front, where Paul states “We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing from ourselves, from our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.” (Remarque 1929, p. 42). Here, there is a very strong sense that, for the young men, the war has taken its toll on them, and is no longer the adventure that they sought. With a transition from youth to men, it appears that they want to return to the normality that there was before their deployment.
This idea is also applied in A Farewell to Arms. As Frederic’s relationship with Catherin grows, he too can see that he is no longer a young man in the war, but an adult who longs to escape the violence and start a normal life with Catherine. He goes to great extent to do this, notably refusing to be operated on so that he can remain injured and avoid the frontline: “I threw away the goddam truss so it would get bad and I wouldn’t have to go to the line again.” (Hemingway 2014, p. 30)
It is interesting that Frederic should battle his purpose in the war with alcohol. Seen as a form of escapism, there is no doubt that Frederic drinks to forget. It may be that alcohol reminds him of home while blocking out the trauma. In a similar fashion, Paul and Kat go hunting for a better meal, and arrive with horse-flesh, which they cook and eat. The mere fact that the young men are searching for a better food is an example of just how strong they wish to return to normality, yet the fact that they feast upon horse-flesh does indeed question their ‘civilised value’.
This too is explored in both novels, particularly with the act of killing. Frederic shoots and kills a Sergeant who refuses to help him push the ambulance out of the mud. The fact that both men are fighting for the same side, and Frederic shows no remorse in killing him is evidence of the truth that ‘civilised value’ is diminished with those involved in the war. On the other hand, Paul murders a British soldier in self-defence, yet it is only after a realisation of what he has done that he states “I would give much if he would but stay alive” (Remarque 1929, p. 105). Although it is clear that Paul has been completely transformed by the war, there is still a great sense that he is very much human; he acts as if the dying soldier were a normal person on the streets of his hometown, and refuses to see him as the enemy. It is the realisation that this man had a wife and daughter that sparks the ‘civilised’ in Paul, and it may be argued that a return to normality is sometimes not sought after, but comes naturally from within.
A natural movement of the normal is also strong in the relationship between Frederic and Catherine. Most particularly is the fact that Frederic did not wish to start a relationship with Catherine, since he states that he had “treated seeing Catherine very lightly” (Hemingway 2014, p. 35). As his natural feelings developed, revealing in him a longingness for normality, he starts “feeling lonely and hollow” (ibid) on the days that he is unable to see her. Such withdrawal symptoms are evident that Frederic was yearning a return to normality in what is otherwise a much uncivilised war.
Paul’s visit to his home whilst on leave highlights the toll of the war on the individual. Feeling disconnected from the start, he discovers that that he does “not belong here anymore, it is a foreign world.” (Remarque 1929, p. 79) With his dad constantly quizzing him on the war, and his old schoolmaster insisting that they know nothing of the bigger picture of the war, Paul concludes that “I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval.” (ibid). It is clear that the definition of ‘normality’ has been altered for Paul; it is no longer the safe environment of the home, but the violence of the frontline.
It is clear that Paul had mistook his return home for one very much like it was prior to the war. Barker argues that “[Paul] Baumer’s generation tries to find a way back to normality, even though the impossibility of the task is just as clear from the outset.” (1979, p. 57). Though this is very true, perhaps the “impossibility of the task” is not as clear to the young men as argued. Most likely, if Paul knew that his return home would cause him distress, he would not have returned. At the end of the trip, Paul can see that “It will be like this too, if I am lucky, when the war is over and I come back here for good. I will sit here just like this and look at my room and wait.” (Remarque 1929, p. 80). He is clearly aware of the effects the war has had on him, and is perhaps at this point more conscious of the fact that a return to normality is unlikely.
Despite this, Paul does bring a taste of home to the frontline. He gives Kat and Kropp some potato-cakes and jam that his mother made. It is interesting to see Kat’s reaction as he takes a bite. He immediately knows that these were made by Paul’s mother, and says that he “can tell by the taste.” (Remarque 1929, p. 96). For the soldiers, a bite of homemade food is a return to normality, and more interestingly exposes the food conditions of the war. We can assume that Kat is accustomed to food of a poorer taste, and can therefore contrast quality tastes.
Catherine in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, is also a character that is arguably in search for normality. Though her role in the Great War is secondary, she has been deeply affected by its outcome. After the death of her fiancé at the Battle of the Somme, she moved to Italy to find solidarity. Yet here she reprised her role as a nurse and found little solidarity in serving for the war. She tells Frederic that she was going to cut her hair off when she heard about her fiancé’s death, and this because she “wanted to do something for him.” (Hemingway 2014, p. 16). During her relationship with Frederic, she arguably fights for normality, which she hopes will be fulfilled by escaping the war. After the pair meet in Stresa and flee to Switzerland, they live together and “exist exclusively in and for their love.” (Donaldson 1990, p. 97).
Frederic and Catherine’s ‘search for normality’ is fulfilled in Switzerland, yet an evaluation of their lives in the snowy mountains may show that normality was never fully rewarded. Hovey argues that “They have not only pulled out of the Great War; they are also cut off from their own families and all friends” (ibid). Though their life has become far more civilised, it is hardly a return to normality. It is perhaps very much a form of escapism, which runs parallel to the actions of the fictitious Victor Frankenstein; he too escapes to the Alps in search for normal life after infusing life on his creation, but only finds isolation. On Frederic and Catherine, Hovey is also of the view that “They have no idea, purpose, plan; they never consider returning to the world to live in it in any role. They are not trying to learn or understand or grow.” (ibid). While this is completely true, Hovey’s idea can also be applied to the general society of the First World War; civilians and soldiers had little purpose but to survive the war, with a far less importance being applied to ‘understanding and growing’.
Certainly, in both novels, there is evidence of strong efforts being made in the search for normality. While Frederic’s attachment to Catherine flourishes, Kat and Paul’s interest in women still remains, in what is generally a male-dominated war. The men in Paul’s company make a trip to the river in an effort to meet French girls; this is solid element of the normal as it displays the soldiers in their most natural state. Not only are they a large part of the Great War, but they also remain true to their human side.
By the end of All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul’s search for normality and survival throughout the war comes to an end when he is found dead. The unknown narrator insists that “he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” (Remarque 1929, p. 140). A closer reading of Paul’s calm state at his death may reveal more about the character; it can be argued that perhaps there was nothing else for Paul to live for, he had become so affected by the war that normality was far beyond his reach. It would be fitting then that Paul should die in that state, as if relieved that his torment is over. In the end he is reunited with the peace that death provides.
Catherine and the baby’s death at the end of A Farewell to Arms is also significant to the search for normality. ‘Normal’ for Frederic would have meant living peacefully with his wife and child after what he experienced during the Great War. However the fact that this peaceful ending is taken from him may be a reflection that normality at the end of the war cannot simply be achieved. Despite Frederic’s escape from the war, he could not escape to a normal lifestyle. At the novel’s abrupt ending, Frederic is alone again and has gained nothing. Through her death, he mirrors the occurring deaths of the war: “Now Catherine would die. That was what you did. You died. You did not know what it was about. You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you.” (Hemingway 2014, p. 279). Even at Catherine’s death, Frederic cannot escape the war; he feels it necessary to reminisce on the reality of the system, and adds to the impression that he will never return to normality.
There appears to be a very strong theme of the ‘search for normality’ in First World War literature. Most characters placed in front of a violent setting are attempting to flee the violence. It appears that Army personnel are the ones who suffer most in what can be considered an unnatural world. Often they are seen searching for elements of a normal lifestyle through food, social welfare and even a purposeful injury and subsequent hospital care.
Even after the war, normality is not restored. Frederic leads a very much open lifestyle, while Paul is killed and his comrades will never return to the same state before the war. This was an issue often commented on by survivors of the war. Remarque himself stated that “The shadow of war hung over us, especially when we tried to shut our minds to it.” (Barker 1979, p. 33)
“All Quiet on the Western Front” Review
A group of new recruits comes to reinforce the company, and Paul’s friend Kat produces a beef and bean stew that impresses them. Kat says that if all the men in an army, including the officers, were paid the same wage and given the same food, wars would be over immediately. Kropp, another of Paul’s former classmates, says that there should be no armies; he argues that a nation’s leaders should instead fight out their disagreements with clubs. They discuss the fact that petty, insignificant people become powerful and arrogant during war, and Tjaden, a member of Paul’s company, announces that the cruel Corporal Himmelstoss has come to fight at the front.
At night, the men go on a harrowing mission to lay barbed wire at the front. Pounded by artillery, they hide in a graveyard, where the force of the shelling causes the buried corpses to emerge from their graves, as groups of living men fall dead around them. After this gruesome event, the surviving soldiers return to their camp, where they kill lice and think about what they will do at the end of the war. Some of the men have tentative plans, but all of them seem to feel that the war will never end. Paul fears that if the war did end, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself.
Himmelstoss arrives at the front; when the men see him, Tjaden insults him. The men’s lieutenant gives them light punishment but also lectures Himmelstoss about the futility of saluting at the front. Paul and Kat find a house with a goose and roast the goose for supper, enjoying a rare good meal.The company is caught in a bloody battle with a charging group of Allied infantrymen. Men are blown apart, limbs are severed from torsos, and giant rats pick at the dead and the wounded. Paul feels that he must become an animal in battle, trusting only his instincts to keep him alive. After the battle, only thirty-two of eighty men are still alive. The men are given a short reprieve at a field depot. Paul and some of his friends go for a swim, which ends in a rendezvous with a group of French girls.
Paul desperately wishes to recapture his innocence with a girl, but he feels that it is impossible to do so. Paul receives seventeen days of leave and goes home to see his family. He feels awkward and oppressed in his hometown, unable to discuss his traumatic experiences with anyone. He learns that his mother is dying of cancer and that Kantorek has been conscripted as a soldier, from which he derives a certain cold satisfaction. He visits Kemmerich’s mother and tells her, untruthfully, that her son’s death was instant and painless.
At the end of his leave, Paul spends some time at a training camp near a group of Russian prisoners-of-war. Paul feels that the Russians are people just like him, not subhuman enemies, and wonders how war can make enemies of people who have no grudge against one another.