Wednesday, May 11, 2011

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front, written by Erich Remarque, takes place during World War I and follows the trials of the young Paul Baumer and his high school friends as they learn of what war really means, fighting for the German army. The story begins with the group of boys, eager after all of the hype of nationalism and patriotism, are sent to boot camp, where they learn exactly what it is they are about to face. After one of their first fights, a classmate of theirs, Kemmerich, is forced to have his leg amputated and is slowly dying before Paul and his friends eyes. But after the cruelty of war, they have been hardened. They still feel sympathy for him, but they know he is going to die and ask for his boots. Newer soldiers don't understand the apathy, but it is just the understanding of what war is that Paul's friend is really showing. The group, after a short reprieve from fighting then discuss politics and what they think would be best for wars. They discuss how meaningless people hold so much power, and that it is the soldiers who do the work. While Paul goes on leave to see his family, he is confused as to why it is so hard to talk to anyone about the bloody battle going on around them. After being re-deployed and meeting the dissapointment of a kaiser, Paul, in mid battle, stabs a French soldier who jumps into his hidey hole during a bombing run. He learns that the man had a wife and kids and is overcome with grief and remorse. But there is no time for his emotions in the tumult of war. As Germany begins to wane under the pressure of the Allied forces, one by one, each and every one of Paul's friends begin to die until Paul is the last one left. Even Paul dies in October 1918, the day the newspapers read, "All quiet on the Western Front".

In the situation with Paul's classmate slowly dying with his leg amputated, do you agree with the new soldiers, that they were being apathetic towards Kemmerich?

What do you think Remarque thought about nationalism and patriotism?

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