March 8, 2006

All Quiet on the Western Front: Questions and Responses

1. Does the novel have an interesting title? What does it mean?
The title of the book, All Quiet on the Western Front, represents the end of the war and beginning of peacetime. This is opposite of what is happening in the book, though. The war rages throughout the whole story with only rumors of peace. By giving the book a title like this, Remarque was able to make a reader believe that the main characters would see peace once more, and in turn force the reader to continue in reading the novel.

2. What is interesting about the way the story is told so far?
A big part of how the story is told relies on being written almost entirely in present tense. By writing as if the events were just happening, it adds to the realness and intensity of the story line. The events are not always connected to one another, this, however, can represent the instability of a war from day to day. By providing many different scenes, including scenes with brutality, deep psychological discussions, and daily life, the novel captures the essence of human nature and the changes that war forces it to undergo.
Because this is a book about war, many high action and extreme events can be automatically expected. As the events in the story unfold they take sudden turns and rarely turn out as one expects them to. One such twist was when Kemmerich, who appeared as if he would get well, suffers from an illness caused by his injury and must get his leg amputated. Though mercy would have him pull through readers face the stunning reality the many amputated soldiers lost their lives. Another unsuspected turn appears when Paul rushes the wounded Katczinsky to receive first aid. Even though it seems like the two will make it to the doctor, Katczinsky dies just before reaching safety.

3. From whose point of view is the story told?
The story is told from the point of view of a young soldier by the name of Paul Bäumer. Paul’s account gives the reader an up close view of what military life was like for a trench soldier during World War I. It also helps the reader see into the personal of war. One who reads the book will be able to become familiar with the way Paul feels about a variety of topics as well as see his friends the way he does.
Because Paul is so young and honest, yet experienced and intelligent, his viewpoint not only presents the facts but can provide a deeper sense of reason for nearly every subject. An example of this takes place when Paul returns home on a short military leave. As he sits in his room he ponders the things that once brought him joy, and how eerie it is to be reunited with them. All throughout the book he also wonders on what the coming peacetime will be like for those who fought in the war.

4. If characters change during the novel, describe their progression.
The main character, Paul Bäumer, changes throughout the course of the story. When he first goes into the military, he is a nineteen year old boy. He enjoyed reading books and learned a lot about the outside world from them. He enjoyed the world, collected butterflies and even wrote poetry. For him the war became a huge turning point. His new environment required him to be quick and logical. These new ideals replaced those he had before and he became detached. Though this detachment saved him from immediate emotional pain caused by the war, it made him unable to live a normal life when he returned home. Despite all of this, Paul still dreams of a day of peace, when he can enjoy nature and the beauty of the earth.
Paul also develops his own philosophies, and learns those of other soldiers. Together they determine what war really is, as well as other aspects of life. These discussions do not only enlighten readers, but they give insight into Paul’s emotional growth.

5. What role does nature play in the novel?
One use of nature in the novels is to represent peace and serenity. The most common symbolism of peace is the poplar tree. Paul often refers to rows of these trees in his wandering daydreams. To him, its shimmering leaves and colorful bark are the physical representations of joy and happiness.
Quite opposite of the poplar trees are the horses that get caught in the middle of a battle. As they lie dieing in the field they moan and make other horrific sounds. This alone is enough to depress the men. These horses symbolize the brutal, unforgiving nature of war. The horses are hurt and then left to suffer, providing the reader with a disturbing image of war.

6. What is the novel’s theme?
The book’s theme relies heavily on comparing the power of war to the mind of man. By showing the affects that war and death had on the soldiers, one can easily observe that the war tears them apart from the inside. If they manage to survive physically, their mind will never be the same again. It is impossible for a person to witness so much terror and agony and continue thinking the exact same way. That is what the novel originally set out to prove, as illustrated by a brief disclaimer from the author.
This theme is demonstrated in the way that Paul thinks about what his life will be like after the war. He realizes that the war has changed him and that he may never be able to recover. His discouragement alone is enough to prove that the war has destroyed his soul.

7. Consider the main relationships between the characters.
Paul and his fellow soldiers rely on one another a great deal because they are each other’s only companions. Many of the boys attended school together; therefore they share a common childhood. Other men they come to know just by living with them. The same war that is constantly tearing them apart, manages to bring them closer to one another. Merely by sharing the same war experience these men have become good friends, and in most cases they have come to fill the need for family. They talk, joke and care for each other just like brothers.

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