All Quiet on the Western Front

Remarque?s All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel set in World War I, centers around the changes brought by the war onto one young German soldier. During his time in the war, Remarque?s protagonist, Paul Baumer, changes from a rather innocent romantic young man to a hardened and somewhat caustic veteran. The story also focuses on the lives of Baumer?s comrades. They all begin by patriotically marching off to join the army. However, their visions of the glories of war are soon swept away with horror as true friends die in the battlefield. The soldiers go in fresh from school, knowing nothing except the environment of hopeful youth. At nineteen and twenty, they come to a premature and distorted maturity with the war...their only home. Throughout the length of the novel, Paul learns of the hardship war brings. He learns the destructiveness of war.

During the course of his experience with war, Baumer disaffiliates himself from those societal icons--parents, elders, school, and religion--that had been the foundation of his pre-enlistment days, in order to mature. His new society, then, becomes the company, his fellow trench soldiers. They are a group who understands the truth as Baumer has experienced it. A period of leave when he visits his hometown is disastrous for Baumer because he realizes that he can not communicate with the people on the home front. His military experiences and the home front settlers? limited, or nonexistent, understanding of the war do not allow for a discussion. When he arrives home and greetings are exchanged, he realizes immediately that he has nothing to say to his mother. " We say very little and I am thankful that she asks nothing" (Ch. 7 P.141). The fact that he does not wish to speak with his parents shows Baumer?s movement away from the traditional institution of the family. His mother finally speaks to him and asks, " was it very bad out there, Paul?" (Ch.7 P. 143) However, Baumer cannot respond to his mother?s question: he understands that the experiences he has had are so overwhelming that " civilian language", or any language at all, would be ineffective in describing them. Trying to replicate the experience and horrors of the war via words is impossible, Baumer realizes this and so he lies, and is able to restore his family?s faith in him. Any attempt at telling the truth would, in fact, trivialize its reality. However, family destruction is not all that Baumer sees, he experiences the physical destructiveness of the war, as well.

As in any well prepared and fought war, human casualties and destruction is unavoidable. However, in a war where soldiers are not sufficiently trained, weapons are used too frequently, and hospitals are under developed, death is inevitable. Baumer witnesses death and the pain that accompanies it all too much. " Leer groans as he supports himself on his arm, he bleeds quickly no one can help him" (Ch.11 P.240). This is not the first time Paul has observed death. He has watched it numerous times before. It is unfeasible to contemplate that these sights have had no affect on Paul. Death is one of the most feared things in the world today, and Paul, at only 20 years old, has seen it all too often. However, Paul has also had an encounter with death that hit more closely to home-- his own. " He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front...All Quiet on the Western Front" (Ch. 12 P. 248). It was said in the book that Paul had fallen as if he was sleeping--he had no sign of suffering on his face. This is exactly how Paul wanted to leave. Paul was tired of life. It had nothing in store for him. However, it came too late for Paul for he had already experienced the misfortunes of war.

During times of war, physical ruin is not the only thing that is felt; mental deterioration is also encountered. Contrary to most beliefs, mental deterioration occurs when rage builds up inside. Rage against the enemy for murdering your comrades, or demolishing you homeland. However when the truth is revealed, that we are all brothers, true mental struggle is seen. " Comrade, I did not want to kill you...Why do