In the novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque, the main character Paul Bäumer’s development shows the horrors of the First World War and the effect it had on the young men who fought in it. Paul Bäumer is the main character whom is nineteen years old, Bäumer volunteered for the army along side four of his classmates. Some parts in the novel is written in past tense when Paul Bäumer is collecting his thoughts. Most of the novel is written in Present tense. During the novel we see Paul Bäumer changing as a person, he has just left school and is a young boy with no experiences. By the end of this novel end even half way through he had become a well experienced man.
Paul Bäumer is the main character and also the narrator. At just nineteen years of age, Bäumer volunteers for the German Army. Before war is a young creative and passionate person who had lots of love for his family. As the war went on Bäumer changed as a person. Bäumer and four of his classmates joined because they felt it was their patriotic duty. After a while of being in the trenches Bäumer starts to get visions of being in Kantoreks class as he gave his great ‘iron youth speech.’ He soon realises Kantorich persuaded the class to join.
“During the drill time Kantorek gave us long lectures until the whole of our class went under his shepherding to the District Commandant and volunteered.”
Bäumer felt he was doing right by his country but he soon feels he can’t tell anyone about his experience in the army and where his families are concerned he feels like an outsider. People like Kantorek are hypocrites, urging young pupils to join up whilst not volunteering himself.
Kemmerich dies. This is the first death we experience as readers in the novel which is very upsetting.
“I became faint, all at once I can not do anymore… He is dead. The face is still wet from the tears. The eyes are half open and yellow like old horn buttons.”
Bäumer feels upset and dark inside, he has just lost his best friend, and they grew up together, school buddies. He is almost like a brother to Bäumer. I feel sorry for Bäumer at this point in the novel because I would hate to lose any of my friends or classmates if I was in the army because I think you would need a lot of friends and good people around to keep your spirits high.
This is one of Bäumers most important memories because they got revenge on Himmelstoss. Himmelstoss was a postman before he enlisted in the war. He is a corporal who trains the recruits. Himmelstoss likes punishing the young recruits and is very harsh and strict.
“Tjaden wets his bed… Himmelstoss maintained that it was sheer laziness and invented a method worthy of himself for curing Tjaden… with mattress of wire netting.”
The young men ended up unwell or with the cold because of this they ended up sleeping on the floor. Bäumer and his friends got revenge by getting him from behind with a big white bed sheet and they covered his mouth with a pillow so he could not scream. Tjaden pulled down Himmelstoss’ trousers with a whip in his mouth. The training camp is harsh and full of sadness, I would not like to be there. Baume describes the front line as a mysterious whirlpool.
“I am in still water far away from its center. I feel the whirl of the vortex sucking e slowly, irresistibly, inescapably into itself.
The front line is a line along which apposing armies face each other and is horrific because you are face to face and it is very hard to stay alive.
Bäumer feels different from everyone else in his hometown because he feels he is different, they are different. He has been away for so long he does not feel at home anymore. He’s not just a boy anymore, he’s now a man. I feel so much respect for Bäumer by this stage because he has done so well and all army men deserve respect.
When Bäumer returns home from leave he feels obliged to volunteer for a dangerous night patrol. Whilst in ‘No-Man’s Land’ Bäumer gets lost. Paul hides in a shell – hole but a bomb goes off behind him when he is alone.
“This is the first time I have killed with my hands…”
Bäumer feels so guilty for killing the French man. He starts to think about the French mans life and his family.
“If only he had run two yards further to the left, he might now be sitting in the trench over there and writing a letter to his wife.”
This changes Bäumers character for the better because he now realises how precious life is. Bäumer feels hatred against the war and realises it’s a bad thing. I personally think war should be illegal because what is the point in killing human beings for victory. I don’t think that’s a victory, it’s a crime to kill. If we are not at war you would be sent to prison and just because its war that makes it ok?
The situation has got a lot worse for the German Army by this late stage in the Novel. In this part Bäumer and Katazinsky are the last two soldiers alive from all the characters whom were introduced at the beginning of the Novel. Kat gets hit by a shrapnel at this point leaving him with a smashed shin. Bäumer carried him back to camp on his back, only to discover on their arrival that a splinter had hit Kat on the back of the head and killed him on the way. Kats death makes Bäumer careless to weather he dies in war or not and also he can now face the rest of his life without any fear.
I feel sorry for Bäumer at this point because he must feel so alone.
Bäumer is now alone without a friend in the trenches because the war has taken all of them away and now Bäumer is all alone.
“Let the months and years come, they can take nothing from me, they can take nothing more. I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear.”
At the end of the novel Bäumer is careless of his life. He has changed dramatically since the beginning. At the beginning Paul was a young boy with lots of dreams, now he is a man who is careless. I feel very lucky that none of my family died during the war and it’s a very emotional thing to go into.
This book is important and should be read by future generations to show how life was and that they should realise how life was and that they should notice how lucky they are. This book makes you have so much for our soldiers.