All Quiet On The Western Front
The epigraph opens the book’s exploration of the effect of the war on those who fought in it. All Quiet on the Western Front takes a big critical opinion against the war and against nationalist and unknowing people like Kantorek and Himmelstoss. Maybe the meaning of this epigraph is the book lets events that happened during the war speak for themselves since they have not been exaggerated. The author tried to bring together his hatred of the war and create realistic characters who are more than some punching bags. Those who have survived the war are still affected by it emotionally.
“Comrade, I did not want to kill you…But you were only an idea to before me, and abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was an abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony-forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”~~Page 223
Paul says these words to the dead body of Gerard Duval, the French soldier he just killed. Paul realizes for the first time that, from fighting on different sides of the war, Duval is basically no different from himself. When Paul says, “Now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship,” he has realized that the war has forced men who are not enemies to fight each other. Paul’s understanding for Duval’s suffering is shown when he keeps calling him “Comrade” and referring to him and Duval as “we” and “us” instead of “they.”
“He turns away. After a long pause he says slowly: ‘I wanted to become a head-forester once.’”~~Page 28
On his death bed and just got his leg amputated, Franz Kemmerich reveals one of his greatest wishes. Ending his sentence with the word “once” makes me think he has either given up on his life or on his dream. The idea of forestry, taking care of nature, creates a sudden gap to the violence of the war surrounding them.
“Hospital-orderlies go to and fro with bottles and pails. One of them comes up, casts a glance at Kemmerich and goes away again. You can see he is waiting, apparently he wants the bed.”~~Page 30
The doctors and hospital attendants do not seem to be nice and friendly to the soldiers. It makes me realize just how easy it may be to fell less of a human during the war. Even when a soldier is far from the trenches, or when he is on his death bed, he is treated more like a number than as a human. The orderlies have a lot of hurt and sick patients and when someone dies, they just put their body on the floor outside because they need the bed.
“Then you can look out from the window across the fields to the two trees in the horizon. It is the loveliest time of the year now, when the corn ripens; at evening the fields in the sunlight look like mother-of-pearl. And the lane of poplars by the Klosterbach, where we used to catch sticklebacks! You can build an aquarium again and keep fish in it, and you can go out without asking anyone, you can even play the piano if you want to.”~~Page 30
Paul tries to talk to Kemmerich as though that could save him. He tries to tempt him with visions of life away from the war, and it has something to do with nature maybe because Kemmerich wanted to be a forester. The saying “…build an aquarium again and keep fish in it” maybe suggests that the fish are so peaceful and contained in their safe house. Or maybe it had something to do with the fat that there were not really any bodies of water mentioned in the world of the novel. Also trying to get his mind off of dying by reminding him where they used to catch sticklebacks. Paul might think that if he tells Kemmerich this before he dies, he will die with more peace in mind and the good memories.
“Let a man be whatever you like in peace-time, what occupation is there in which he can behave like that without getting a crack on the nose? He can only do that in the army. It goes to the heads of them all, you see. And more insignificant a man has been in civil life the worse it takes him.”~~Page 44
Kat is saying, in his opinion, that the situation of war lets men get away with behavior that would otherwise get them in huge trouble. The need for power pushes people to do crazy things. As much as I dislike Himmelstoss, I am surprised by the way the other soldiers beat him up. It does seem a bit extreme, but they get away with it because they are in the army, where these kinds of things like “a crack on a nose” is normal.
“I look at the portraits once more; they are clearly not rich people. I might send them money anonymously if I earn anything later on. I seize upon that, it is at least something to hold onto. This dead man is bound up with my life, therefore I must do something, promise everything in order to save myself.”~~Page 225
After almost going crazy staring at Duval, Paul vows to spend the rest of his life making money for Duval’s family. The idea of giving up the rest of his life for this idea gives him peace. Paul hopes to help bring happiness to his “enemy’s” family. He will pretty much spend the rest of his life repaying for killing this guy he barely knew.
“’How far does the train go?’ I ask. ‘To Cologne.’
‘Albert,’ I say, ‘we stick together; you see’”~~Page 249
If Paul remained on the train, chances are he’d be able to get farther from the front and closer to home. But he’d rather be with his good friend. He is pretty amazing as a friend. The friendships created on the fronts and with the soldiers are really awesome. And later, a few lines down, I read that Paul faked a fever in order to be in the same hospital as each other.
“After a few minutes, I straighten myself up again. My legs and my hands tremble. I have trouble in finding my water bottle, to take a pull. My lips tremble as I try to drink. But I smile-Kat is saved.”~~Page 290
This is tragic quote. Paul is trying to save his best friend, nearly killing himself in the process. He got Kat to medical health, but the war still finds a way to kill Kat. Paul doesn’t believe it when the orderly tells him Kat is stone dead, because he was only hit in the shin. Kat got hit in the head with a splinter.
“Germany ought to be empty soon.”~~Page 281
This is said by Kat. They have given up hope, and know the end will come soon for them. Men are being wounded and killed, either instantly or after a while, but every day, more and more people are being killed or have amputated legs, so eventually, there will be no one left to fight.