"All Quiet on the Western Front" by Paul Baumer

Essay by jdlarue22University, Bachelor'sA, February 2005

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All Quiet on the Western Front is written by Paul Baumer, a nineteen year old German who fights in the German army on the French front in World War I. Paul and several of his friends from school joined the army voluntarily after listening to the stirring patriotic speeches of their teacher, Kantorek. But after experiencing ten weeks of brutal training from Corporal Himmelstoss. Paul and his friends have realized that the ideals of nationalism and patriotism for which they enlisted are wrong. They no longer believe that war is glorious or honorable, and they live in constant physical terror.

When Paul's company receives a short reprieve after two weeks of fighting, only eighty men of the original 150-man company return from the front. The cook doesn't want to give the survivors the rations that were meant for the dead men but eventually agrees to do so; the men thus enjoy a large meal.

Paul and his friends visit Kemmerich, a former classmate who has recently had a leg amputated after contracting gangrene. Kemmerich is slowly dying, and Muller, another former classmate, wants Kemmerich's boots for himself. Paul doesn't consider Müller insensitive; like the other soldiers, Müller simply realizes pragmatically that Kemmerich no longer needs his boots. Surviving the agony of war, Paul observes, forces one to learn to disconnect oneself from emotions like grief, sympathy, and fear. Not long after this encounter, Paul returns to Kemmerich's bedside just as the young man dies. At Kemmerich's request, Paul takes his boots to Müller.

A group of new recruits comes to reinforce the company, and Paul's friend Kat manages to produce 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...