Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front

Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front

Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front

Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front


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In CliffsNotes on All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque takes you inside the gruesome realities of World War I through the eyes of Paul Baumer, a sensitive teenager and typical infantryman in the German army.

This study guide will help you begin to consider how Remarque's views on war might relate to modern-day conflicts. You'll also gain insight into the life and cultural background of the author. Other features that help you study include

  • Character analyses of major players
  • A character map that graphically illustrates the relationships among the characters
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Five miles behind the front lines between Langemark and Bixschoote, Paul Bäumer’s company is at rest. They have had very little sleep for the fourteen days since they relieved the front line and seventy of their one hundred and fifty men are dead at the hands of Russian gunfire. the cook, Ginger, has fixed rations for the one hundred and fifty and, after arguing with the lieutenant, grudgingly consents to give all the food to the eighty soldiers left, including double rations of smokes. As the narrator remarks, “Today is wonderfully good.”

The narrator is Paul Bäumer, a nineteen-year-old boy who is already battle-hardened in this first chapter. As they rest, Paul describes the group of German schoolboys who enlisted with him at the prodding of their schoolmaster, Kantorek. One by one he introduces the doomed group as Albert Kropp, “the clearest thinker”; Müller, who carried books and “dreams of examinations”; and Leer, bearded and a frequenter of officers’ brothels. These young men were in Paul’s school class, and the novel follows their lives. Along with these comrades, Paul describes several others who will become part of his wartime company: Tjaden, a nineteen-year-old locksmith, skinny but a big eater; Haie Westhus, nineteen, a peat digger with huge hands; and Detering, a peace-loving peasant with his wife and farm always on his mind. in contrast to these youngsters is a forty-year-old veteran named Stanislaus Katczinsky or “Kat.” He is “shrewd, cunning, and hard-bitten” with “a remarkable nose for dirty weather, good food, and soft jobs.” a cobbler in civilian life, he is older than the boys and assumes the role of leader and he seems to have a special bond of friendship with Paul.

While the company is resting, they play cards, read letters and newspapers, and smoke. Realizing how lucky they are for this respite, they do not discuss the war. Instead, Paul reflects on their differences from the new recruits; using the common latrine as an example, he cites their own lack of embarrassment and hints of their war-driven knowledge of “things far worse.” Clearly, the main focus of soldiers is their stomachs and intestines.

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