All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul's War Experiences
Uploaded by knoxville on Feb 22, 2004
The book All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque tells the story of Paul Baumer, a young German soldier during WWI. This novel was the first of its kind. Instead of romanticizing war it exposed it for the terrible, bloody and dirty struggle for human survival that it is. The story starts out in the middle of the conflict and continues to almost the end of the war with brief flashbacks to Paul’s youth and his initial drafting into the army. Paul joined the army directly after high school and never really experienced life. Due to his inexperience and lack of knowledge of the world, the war becomes Paul’s life and in the end, his destruction. I think there were three turning points in Paul’s experience of the war which changed his perspective - when he kills a French soldier in close combat, when he returns home, and when the war appears to be lost and coming to an end.
Paul is an experienced fighter whose bullets have killed many people but he has never thought philosophically about that fact. He is fighting for a cause he doesn’t really understand but yet he continues to kill and see his friends die. He relates to the war in an “ideal and almost romantic” fashion (ch. 2, pg. 25) Although he has killed so many people I still think he was a very naïve person; someone older who had lived more of his life would probably not have been able to kill without questioning what he was doing. In many ways a person like Paul is the ideal fighter in a war, because once soldiers begin to question what they are doing they become less effective.
When Paul kills a person up close for the first time he feels a surge of guilt, sadness, and remorse for what has happened. “Three hours… The gurgling starts again—but how slowly a man dies!” (ch. 8 ph. 220) I think these feelings would be similar for someone of any age group who had done a similar thing. However, as a youth these feeling are quick to fade from Paul’s consciousness and he is able to continue fighting as though nothing has happened. When he returns to the trenches after the killing, his friends who have gone through the same reactions to similar events acknowledge his feelings.
After taking a few days leave and visiting...