"All Quiet on the Western Front" takes place on Germany's western front towards the end of World War 1. The story is narrated by a young German infantry soldier named Paul Bäumer. Paul and a group of his friends were "persuaded" to join the war by stirring nationalistic speeches glorifying war and making it out to be a wonderful event, given by their professor Kantorek. Though before long Paul and his friends realize that this is anything but true.
The first of the group of friends to die was Franz Kemmerich. Kemmerich dies not directly from wounds in the war, but a fatal gangrene infection from the terrible conditions the soldiers must endure on a daily basis. Before dying, Franz tells Paul that he wants his prized pair of boots to be given to a friend from their group Muller. This is when Paul learns to disconnect himself from his emotions in order to survive the war. Paul also learns from this how cruel war truly can be.
Later in the book when Paul and his comrades are sitting down to some stew made by a friend, the group discusses war. They believe that instead of going to war and losing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives for petty reason, the leaders of feuding nations should fight to the death to settle their differences.“The war has ruined us for everything. We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm" (87), is spoken by Paul. He is saying that if he does survive the war, he and his friends will not be able to live normal lives. The war has changed who they are and has destroyed any chances of them functioning normally in society.
After a short leave, Paul goes back to war and is caught behind enemy lines. This is when the climax of the book happens. When Paul is hiding in a mortar shell hole, a french soldier jumps in next to him without seeing Paul. Paul instinctively takes out his knife and cuts the Frenchman's throat. Although Paul has probably taken many lives during his fighting before this, this kill makes Paul feel a deep remorse. Before, Paul could not see the killing and damage he was doing to other soldiers, but now, he has personally seen a fellow soldier be killed. Paul reasons that he and the French soldier are the same because they are both in a war that they do not want to be in.
The theme of "All Quiet on the Western Front" is simply war is hell. Every single one of Paul's original group of friends dies by the end of the novel, including Paul himself. War does not care who dies or who lives, it just exists to kill. The day Paul dies, a field report is sent out reading only one sentence: "All quiet on the Western Front," as to say one death is an insignificant loss in war.
1.) Throughout the entire book, war is portrayed as a horrible thing that is an unnecessary abomination. Do you believe war is needed. If yes, why? If no, how can feuding countries settle their differences?
2.) "Now if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope. We will not be able to find our ways any more (294)." Paul is describing what his life will be like after the war. Do you believe that soldiers after a war will be able to function normally in society after witnessing pain, suffering, and death?