A Treacherous Decent to Indifference
In World War I over 5.5 million Germans were killed in the course of battle. All Quiet on the Western Front, written by Erich Maria Remarque puts the reader on the battlefield where so many of these men met their deaths. He writes from inside the mind of main character Paul Baumer. Remarque describes the horrors of war and how it changed Paul and so many innocent young men from excited teenagers ready to embark on life’s infinite opportunities, into heartless machines with no hope, a complete indifference to emotion, and an attitude that focused entirely on survival.
The story starts in a pleasant time, the closest to happiness and peace that Paul experiences in the novel. All of Paul’s comrades from school are still alive and the focus of the soldiers is of times before they arrived on the front. Many flashbacks create a content feeling. Even within the first few sentences Paul seems to be alright with his situation: “Yesterday we were relieved, and now are bellies are full of beef and haricot beans. We are satisfied and at peace” (1).
The first hardship that Paul endures occurs when his secondary school friend Kemmerih dies after his leg is amputated. Paul wants his comrade to hold on and is just short of mortified to witness such a slow and painful death.
“I do not reply. It is no use any more. No one can console him. I am wretched with helplessness. This forehead with its hollow temples, this mouth that now seems all teeth, this sharp nose! And the fat, weeping woman at home to whom I must write. If only the letter were sent off already!” (30).
Paul shows how innocent he still is at this point in the story. He cannot bear to see this poor boy suffer. His mind wanders to everything that Kemmerih has missed out on and all of the people his death will affect. Even though this death does prove Paul to be a sensitive young man, it...