March 8, 2006

Symbolism in All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front provides few examples of symbolism. Though things such as youth and beauty are destroyed by the war, this is merely a reflection of actual behavior during warfare. One constantly reoccurring symbol is Kemmerich’s soft airman’s boots. These boots, originally belonging to an enemy pilot, were taken by Kemmerich after the man’s death. After Kemmerick dies in the hospital, Paul delivers the boots to Müller. Later, when Müller is killed, Paul takes the boots to be his own. He is, in turn, killed in the war, while the boots assumedly survive.
The ability of the boots to outlive their owner symbolizes the weakness of humans. While bodies are being massacred by shells and bullets, the boots live on to serve others who are destined to die in the war. The fact that Müller was more concerned about inheriting the boots than about the dieing Kemmerick, also shows that the something as simple and inert as a pair of shoes is more valuable than the humans that possess them.