"All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque

Essay by RNunes9864University, Bachelor'sB+, March 2007

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Erich Maria Remarque’s epic novel of World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front is a chilling reminder of not only what is destroyed in wartime, but more importantly of the innocence lost. While many of the political elites hid behind a cloak of political jargon and security strongholds, the true horror of war was nevertheless found in the bowels of the trenches, and in the men who occupied these harbingers of chaos and death. The book centers on Paul Baumer, who serves as the novel’s narrator and key figure. Paul and his comrades make up a few soldiers of the Second Company, a ground infantry unit in the German army. The men are all young and just out of school, except for Kat who is forty years of age and serves as the group’s “mentor”. Although seasoned in his years, Kat is also troubled by what he has seen in the trenches and is often reminded of his family at home.

The novel begins innocently enough, describing how the men in their early days would be quite embarrassed using the general latrine in the barracks. After enjoying some extra rations the men gather to relieve themselves and reflect.

I well remember how embarrassed we were as recruits in barracks when we had to use the general latrine. There were no doors and twenty men sat side by side as in a railway carriage, so that they could be reviewed all at once, for soldiers must always be under supervision. (page 7).

Most of us men have felt this uneasiness in our duties of everyday life, entering a public restroom and surveying the urinals and stalls so as to put a good distance between yourself and the other fellows, using the utmost etiquette as not to take a...