rque. Little, Brown and Company. (U.S.A., 1990) 248pp.
We march up, moody or good-tempered soldiers we reach the zone where the front begins and become on the instant human animals. (53)
All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel full of the truth and hardships of WWI. Narrated by Paul Baumer, one of the four nineteen year olds, that form the Second Company. And four are nineteen years of age, and all four joined up from the same class as volunteer for the war.(8) The story of four childhood friends that try to survive the war; Kropp, Muller, Kemmerich, and Paul Baumer. Then theres Tjaden, Haie, Detering, Leer and their leader Kat. All eight form strong bonds and together try to stay alive.
At first Baumer describes the little anecdotes that only they know of. Things like how they got the chance to beat Himmelstoss, their disciplinarian at camp; how on a hungry night Kat found horsemeat and bread. Kemmerich dies soon. Baumer doesnt describe much of the front line that for him Killing each separate louse is a tedious business when a man has hundreds. (69) They go back and forth from the front line. Haie is second to die. Baumer gets seventeen days off after a heavy bombardment fourteen days leave and three days for traveling. He goes back to his hometown in which he finds all to be the same but he does not belong anymore to that scenario. He goes to training camp and then returns to the front.
The squad is sent to patrol a town that has been heavily bombed. Baumer and Kropp get injured. Both end up at the Catholic hospital. Kropps leg is amputated and Baumer gets well. They part from each other. Slowly one by one of the reminding falls. Detering flees; Muller is shot; and Kat dies in Baumers arms on their way to
safety. Their regiment begins to lose the war and things turns even more evil. Baumer, alone and tired of two years fighting, dies on October 1918, and for his death all was quiet in the western front.
Beyond, literally fighting the war, Baumer and the rest fought their minds, their hunger, their shattered dreams and shattered lives. They fought themselves. They fought the war.
The soldiers of the most animal nature fought their minds. They coped with the horror of war with a certain numbness to it. They shelled up the horror for that they knew that if entirely exposed it would cause them madness….he is curious in a way that I find stupid and distressing I realize he does know that a man cannot talk of such things; I would do it willingly, but it is too dangerous for me to put these things into words. I am afraid they might then become gigantic and I be no longer able to master them. (143) …it has reinforced us with dullness, so that we do not go to pieces before the horror, which would overwhelm us if we had clear, conscious thought. (231)
The hunger that was constant, more constant than that of a shell. With lack of nourishment, they appreciated food at its most. They were feeble because of so. For that a good ration of liver sausage and turnip bread was heavenly bliss.we know that food is as important as ammunition and only for that reason must be brought up.(95)
They coped with the fact that at nineteen their dreams were shattered. At nineteen, that age in which one starts to find love for life, but with the war it was all laid in the past. They are no longer the Iron Youth as their schoolmaster used to call them. We are not youth any longer. We dont want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The fist bomb, the first explosion,
burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war. (79)
The war shattered their lives. They can no longer go home and feel they fit in like before. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had only been in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world. (146). They look strange in civilian clothes; they have grown in the army. They had small things that made them boys; things like writing and reading. It is strange to think that at home in the drawer of my writing table there lies the beginning of a play called Saul and a bundle of poems. Many an evening I have worked on them we all did something of the kind but that has become so unreal to me I cannot comprehend it anymore. (23) At nineteen their lives were cut short and shattered and that for now and forever they will no longer be boys but soldiers.
They fought the war. They killed, and survived. Their most basic animal instinct came about. They dodged the shells. They held their breath for the gas bombs. We see time pass in the colourless faces of the dying, we cram food into us, we run, we throw, we shoot, we kill, we lie about, we are feeble and spent (116) They fought against death.Shells, gas clouds, and flotillas of tanks — shattering, corroding, death.
Dysentery, influenza typhus — scalding, choking, death.
Trenches, hospitals, the common grave — there are no other possibilities. (238)
Remarque has an extraordinary use of words. He is able to capture the essence of the frame. He captures the horror of the war. We see me living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps in to the next shell-hole; a lance-corporal crawls a mile and a half on his hands dragging his smashes knew after him; another goes to the dressing station and over his
clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see men without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death. (117)
His metaphors give to the reading a new view. He unites something so fragile with the hardness of war. He compares the vanishing strengths of a soldiers to a flickering flame. We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out. (232) He compares the days of destruction to angels. The days stand like angels in blue and gold, incomprehensible, above the ring of annihilation. (240)
Remarque paints the picture of death. He does this by telling how death invades the soldiers senses. The sky is blue and without clouds. In the evening it grows sultry and the heat rises from the earth. When the wind blows toward it brings the smell of blood, which is every heavy and sweet. This deathly exhalation from which the shell-holes seems to be a mixture of chloroform and putrefaction, and fills us with nausea and retching. (110) He describes death as a life-sucking mist. A mysterious air that brings the end. My hands grow cold and my flesh creeps; and yet the night is warm. Only the mist is cold, this mysterious mist that trails over the dead and sucks from them their last, creeping life. By morning they will be pale and green and their blood congealed and black. (108)
A novel that revolutionizes the view towards WWI. A book that shows how hard and crude the war really was. At that time, to go off to war was the most heroic thing to do, and with this book one can see it wasnt all just territory gained, but lives lost. It is a compelling story about those that lived through it. All Quiet on the Western Front gives a glimpse to those who didnt come near of living WWI. It gives a small look into the
horror, chaos, and sadness of the war. A war classic, which breaks the glamour of the war. A crude, hard, portraying picture painted in this novel by Erich Maria Remarque.