After reading the novel All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque I found that I have learned many new things about World War I. Some things I learned had great interest to me, and others I wish I had never learned. The novel is narrated by the main character named Paul Baumer. Paul is a young man who is fighting for Germany during World War I. He is fighting in the trenches on the French front, hence where the title All Quiet on the Western Front comes from. I found that throughout the story there were some main messages that the author is trying to get across. The first is how horrible and devastating war can be. This is shown by the detail that the author goes into with how each of Paul’s friends dies and how the author describes the gore and bloodiness in each battle.
The second is how war can affect a soldier. This is shown when the soldiers are sitting and discussing their plans for after the war and most of them say that they feel that the war will never end and how all they now know is war. Finally, there is a message about how human instinct can save lives and also cost lives. The author shows how it can save lives when Paul knew to run and hide at certain times and it shows how it can cost lives when Paul killed the soldier that jumped in the hole with him. I found that I really enjoyed reading All Quiet on the Western Front. It kept my interest because I love books that are about wars and brotherhood. The novel shows how horrible and depressing war really is, rather than how people recently render it as honorable and glorious.
This novel tells a timeless story of brotherhood and war. Paul Baumer is a nineteen year old student, who in the past has been a compassionate and sensitive person. This all changed once he and several of his friends voluntarily joined the army after listening to speeches that made them “want to be a part of it all” thinking that war was honorable and glorious. They then went to the brutal and cruel army camp for about ten weeks. The camp got them prepared for their entry into “The Great War”, which later on in history became known as World War I. It also showed the young men that war is not so glorious or honorable at all, but more physical terror and brutality.
As the war goes on more and more soldiers become wounded and are killed. The only positive affect of all the deaths is that each day each soldier gets more food; in other words, they eat the food that would have been consumed by the soldiers that have been killed. After being involved in the actual war for a short two weeks, Paul’s company is granted a short reprieve. Out of the original one hundred and fifty man company, the only eight surviving men get to go on this reprieve. During their reprieve they visit a fellow soldier that had lost a leg and is slowly dying. As Paul and the other soldiers are watching their good friend’s life coming to an end, they begin to feel the effects of the war. These effects fall under the category of fright, sorrow, sympathy, and just extreme emotional pain. He also feels something called survivor’s guilt, which is how someone feels if they survive a tragedy while others close to them do not.
On returning to the war after their reprieve, Paul’s company has been reinforced with new soldiers. During one of their few down times during the war, Paul and his new soldier friends joke around and say alternatives to war. For example, one of his closer friends named Kat comments and says that if all the men involved in the war were paid the same and fed the same, the war would be over immediately. Another one of Paul’s closer friends named Kropp jokes that there should be no armies; instead the nation’s leaders should fight out any disagreements with clubs.
One of Paul’s least favorite people, named Himmelstoss, joins his company. This is unfortunate because no one gets along with him. Himmelstoss’s behavior causes Paul’s friends, Kropp and Tjaden, to be put on trial for insubordination. Their lieutenant gives Kropp and Tjaden a light punishment of three days arrest for Tjaden and one days arrest for Kropp. The lieutenant also lectures Himmelstoss on his behavior.
In chapter four, the men have to do one of their usual tormenting nightly duties of laying barbed wire at the front. This night however the enemy is firing heavy artillery at Paul’s company. They go to hide in a nearby grave yard when the force of the incoming shells causes the buried bodies to come out of the ground. This is in a way ironic because as the soldiers get shot they fall and die next to the risen dead bodies. The surviving soldiers then go back to their camps and discuss their plans after the war. Most of the soldiers believe that the war will never come to an end but they still have dreams about their plans for after the war.
During one of their most cruel battles of the war, men are ripped apart from explosions. During this horrible display of warfare Paul realizes that he has to rely on his instinct to keep him alive. After the brutal battle only thirty two of the original eighty men return to camp. In order to recuperate after such a mentally and physically damaging battle, Paul and his friends go to a nearby lake to swim. During this swim they all run into a group of French girls. They all attempt to bond with the girls, but Paul finds himself unsuccessful because he feels that the war has changed him too much. He felt that all he knows now is war.
Shortly after the brutal battle, Paul is sent on a seventeen day leave to see his family. When he is home he finds that he is unable to talk about the war with anyone. He also learns that his mother is slowly dying of cancer. This made it harder for him to return to the war because he wanted to be with his family during this horrible time. Before he returns to war, Paul visits Kemmerich’s mother and tells her of her son’s death.
In chapter eight, Paul is returning to the war when he stops by one of their Russian soldier prisons. He takes the time to stop and talk to the prisoners. He finds that the Russian soldiers are just like him, and he wonders how there can be a war between countries that have no grudge against each other. When he returns to his company he finds that the German emperor is visiting them.
Soon after that, during a battle, Paul’s instinctive fighting style takes a turn on him. During an attack he is forced to hide in a shell hole to protect himself. A French soldier then jumps in the hole with him for protection from cross fire, not knowing that Paul was already in there. Paul instinctively stabs the innocent French soldier and causes the soldier to have a slow and extremely painful death. He is quickly filled with regret and sorrow for having hurt the French soldier because he feels that he was not a threat nor an enemy to him; but just a victim of war like himself. After the battle calms down he goes through his victim’s things and finds out that the French soldier had a wife and children. He then can’t get over the fact that he destroyed an innocent family and is filled with even more regret and grief.
For the next few weeks, Paul and his friends are sent on an assignment to guard a supply depot that seems to be easier than what they are used to. However, during an attack on their supply depot, both Kropp and Paul are wounded by a falling shell and sent to a nearby hospital. Paul has to get surgery due to his wounds and Kropp needs to get his leg amputated. Kropp becomes extremely depressed due to his injuries, which results in him to leaving his friends in the army.
Starting in chapter eleven, the German army begins to be increasingly weakened. Paul’s army goes through this spiraling downfall. During this downfall he has to watch each of his friends slowly die off one by one. One of Paul’s closest friends named Detering is killed and court-martialed while he is running from the enemy soldiers. Another one of his closest friends, named Kat, is killed when a piece of shrapnel slices his head open while Paul is attempting to carry him to safety.
By the fall of 1918, Paul is the only one of his group of friends who is still alive. There are rumors around that the Germans are going to surrender and peace will finally come. Shortly after, Paul is poisoned during a gas attack. While in the hospital, he thinks about his plans for after the war. He feels that he has changed and all he knows is war and that he is unable to return to a peaceful life.
Shortly after Paul recovery, he returns to battle. In October of 1918 there is a day that that the army calls “All Quiet on the Western Front” meaning it was a quiet day and there was very little fighting. On that day Paul is finally killed. The novel concludes with the author stating that Paul’s corpse has a very calm expression, in a way it is though he is relieved that the end has come at last.
As a reader, I am very critical and judgmental about the piece in which I am reading. This causes me to dislike many things that I read. I have read few novels about wars but the majority of the novels I read about wars I have liked. The same goes for All Quiet on the Western Front.
I really enjoyed this novel because I felt that the author accurately portrayed how life was like for a soldier during World War I. The quality and organization of this book was outstanding because each time that Paul was able to go home it made me have tears of joy because he was able to see his family. The quality of the book was also so strong when Paul killed the French soldier and was emotionally distraught, and when each of his friends died, I had tears of sorrow. Also this novel just was so strong in detail that I could picture every scene and could even accurately figure out what Paul was thinking. One part of the book that is hard to get off my mind is when Paul instinctively killed the French soldier and became very depressed and regretful for doing it. The author describes his feelings so well that I started to feel how Paul must have felt and it brought me to tears. I know it is impossible for me to feel exactly what he felt, but I got the whole idea of his feelings. I feel that the novel really affected me because Paul is the same age as me.
I learned many new things about World War I and European culture that I did not know about before. Some things that I learned were of great interest to me, and some things I wish I had never learned. An example of something that I learned is how ironic it is that Germany was being ruled by a small puny man. A second thing that I learned that is good is how close the soldiers became; it was as if they were all brothers. The author portrays this by showing how Paul attempted to carry Kat so safety. Of course this also backfires by how horrible it is each time Paul loses a friend. My last example is how similar and not dangerous some of the soldiers were. You can see this similarity when Paul visits the Russian soldier prison and talks to some of the Russian soldiers.
An example of something I wish I never learned is how quickly people died in combat. The author portrays this by stating how in two weeks, a company of one hundred and fifty men only eight were alive. Also, I wish I never learned that soon as a soldier recovers from an injury, they are sent back into battle. The author portrays this by showing how in just a few weeks after surgery, Paul goes right back to fighting. In addition, I wish I never learned how war changes people so much. The author shows this by describing how because of the war, all Paul knew was war and never thought it would end.
If someone was to tell me to find ways to improve the novel, I would have a very hard time. I found that I couldn’t improve the book if I tried. The author did an exceptional job of describing how horrible war is through this brilliant novel. The structure and organization of the book was ideal. The details in the book were phenomenal. The historical accurateness was right on the target. Finally, the content of the novel was one of a kind and worthy of a reward. If I have time over the summer I will definitely read this novel again.
Overall, I found that All Quiet on the Western Front to be a classic. I can see why this book is called “The Greatest War Novel of All Time”. In my opinion it was perfect in every way. It had its happy points and its sad points but throughout the whole novel, it never lost my attention. The quality of the words written was so strong that I was brought to tears of joy during moments of hope, and tears of sorrow during moments of misery. The content was also extremely accurate for a novel about war based on real events. This book has the rare quality and uniqueness that each time I had to stop reading I would constantly wonder what would happen next. The novel shows how horrible and depressing war really is, rather than how people recently render it as honorable and glorious. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves to read and enjoys books about war or books about a soldier’s life.