All Quiet on the Western Front


Chapter 1 to 5

Chapter One Summary

Before Chapter One, an epigraph to the novella states, “It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.” From its outset, All Quiet on the Western Front commits to the personalized stories born of battle. Instead of focusing on highly politicized alliances or government, the novella promises to show the individualized horror that war can cause for individuals and their families.

Chapter One introduces Paul Bäumer, the narrator of the story. Part of the Second Company, Bäumer is a young German soldier fighting in World War I. When the novella opens, Bäumer and his fellow soldiers have just received a short break after fighting on the front lines for two weeks. Unfortunately, only 80 of the original 150 in the company remain alive after a rough battle on their last day of fighting.

To show the variety and backgrounds of the other soldiers, Paul Bäumer gives a short description of those he knows the best. Like Paul Bäumer, Leer, Müller, and Kropp are only 19 years old. The four soldiers were former classmates, and they all voluntarily joined the army. Other soldiers in the Company include Tjaden, a locksmith who is skinny but always eats large quantities of food. Opposite of Tjaden, Haie Westhus, who is also 19, digs peat with his enormous body. Detering, a peasant, left a wife at home whom he misses greatly. Lastly, Katczinsky is the oldest of the group. Twice the age of the other soldiers, Katczinsky acts as the leader of the group.

After sleeping, the men are surprised but delighted to see that the cook has accidentally prepared enough food for 150 men. Although the men want to eat the food meant for their deceased comrades, the cook insists that each man is only allowed to eat a single portion. The other rations will have to be wasted. However, after an argument, the cook acquiesces and allows the remaining soldiers to consume the food.

Allowing himself a few moments...

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