nt All Quiet on the Western Front EssaysThe Cause of Death in All Quiet on the Western Front

Erich Maria Remarque’s ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is a very
interesting and true-to-heart novel based in the first world war where
many men and women died because someone called them the enemy. The main
character is Paul Baumer, a nineteen year old man who is swept into the
war, along with his friends, not one day before he is out of school. They
are sent to the front to “protect the fatherland” or Germany as it is
called. Paul and his friends go from this idealistic opinion to
disillusionment throughout the book as they discover the truth that the
enemy is just like them, and Paul’s friends start being killed one-by-one.
This novel is a gripping account of how war is most of the time bloody and
horrid. The few who came out of this war were not the people they were
when they left. They become pale and emotionless, without feeling or
thought. Some killed themselves, they had experienced ultimate horror,
the horror of war. The novel starts two years after Paul and his friends
first reached the front and then goes back and forth between present and
past. The main topics throughout the book is the change from idealism to
disillusionment, the loss of Paul’s friends, and especially the loss of
Paul’s innocence.

The change from idealism to disillusionment is really the driving
force behind the novel. From young school boys, listening to their
schoolmaster asking “Won’t you join up comrades?”(11) to “weary,
broken”(294) men, idealism and disillusionment play a major role on Paul’s
decisions and thoughts. For example, on the second page of the novel,
Paul says, “It would not be such a bad war if only one could get a little
more sleep.” (2) Later in the book, a disillusioned Paul says of the same
war, “I see how people are set against one another and in silence,
unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”(263)
Even though he has been in the war two years, the first quote shows how
Paul’s idealism is still strong. In the second quote, Paul sees the war
for what it truly is, a waste of time, food, money, and young men. The
scar of war left a deep gash in the mind of Paul Baumer.

The loss of Paul’s friends was a factor that increased Paul’s
change from a young, proud idealist to a weary, disillusioned soldier.
When Kemmerich, Paul’s friend, died, Paul felt happy to be alive and
senses everything “as never before.”(30) As more of Paul’s friends die,
he realizes just how bad this war is . Not did his friends brings this to
his eyes, but other people he sees, the new soldier who loses his mind,
the lance-corporal who lost his head, and the dying French soldier whom
Paul saw as a person, not a monster as the Kaiser would have him believe.
These people and many others were pivotal in the breaking down of Paul’s
idealism. However, this is not a very positive way to find reality as
people had to die to show Paul how the war really is and how it effects
him and what friends he has.

The second main topic is the loss of Paul’s innocence. Paul is a
smart man before the war, who enjoys reading and drawing. He had a bright
future ahead, but the war killed his future. Every man he knew wanted him
to join the war, defend Germany, and come back a hero. When he heard the
first shell, saw the first man die, killed his one of the enemy, he was
never the same Paul again. The reader sees this when Paul goes home on
fourteen day leave. He wants to “think (himself) back into that
time,”(171) when he felt the exhilaration of picking up books and falling
into an abyss of wild illusion. But when he looks at his books, his bed,
his old clothes, and his drawings, he experiences “a terrible feeling of
foreigness.”(172) In the end, as Paul stands up in the trench, right
before his death, he combines the young, idealistic Paul, and the ruthless,
weary soldier Paul. He has a single unity in both, a unity that gives him
the reality that war is not as bloodless as he thought.

The discovery that the enemy was as human as Paul did not come
until late in the book, when he was back from the training base far from
the front. Not only did his idealism cover him from this truth, but
training did also had a hand in it. Everyday in boot camp, he was tried
to kill without thought or provocation. He never had the chance to really
look into the eyes of the enemy. They said the Allies were not to be
trusted. It wasn’t until he saw what he had done to “the printer, Gerard
Duval” (225) did he finally see the true enemy, “the Kaiser.”(205)