”I they know not what awaits them on
”I am very quiet. 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. The
life that has borne me through these
years is still in my hands. Whether
I have subdued it, I know not. But so
long as it is there it will seek its own
way out, heedless of the will that is
These are the thoughts of a young veteran of World War I, named
Paul Baumer. It is a testament for one and all of the “lost generation.” A
generation of war ravaged youth trying to come to terms with the reality
of life, and the hatred that took the lives of so many of their comrades.
Before they had a chance to live the war engulfed their youthful
aspirations to conquer the world. Torn apart by war, yet unified by the
noble cause of defending their country in all its glory.
”On the threshold of life,
they faced an abyss of death.”
Among the many new recruits, Paul Baumer and his classmates,
enlist with youthful enthusiasm in the German army of World War I. As
soldiers they know not what awaits them on the battle field. Many of
their comrades will die before their very eyes. And for what? They don’t
know what their fighting against, they’re fighting a war that isn’t their own.
But rather the war of the political leaders of several countries, whose
arrogance cost the lives of so many young men. A war can never be fully
justified, how do you justify the loss of human life? They know nothing of
life but despair, death, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of
sorrow. The war has destroyed them, before they had a chance to live.
”We loved our country as much as they;
we went courageously into every action
but also we distinguished the false from
the true, we had suddenly learned to see.
And we saw that there was nothing of
their world left. We were all at once
terribly alone; and alone we must see it
It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like for these
young men to face the hardships that war brings. The loss of their
comrades, fear, what it all boils down to is death. A word that is
synonymous with war. One by one, they all die, and in the end Paul is left
to face the war alone.
Kemmerich is the first to die. And he is a sign of the things to
come. When he dies, they all see themselves, and the uncertainty that
lies ahead. A friend has died, yet he remains only a face in their
imagination, someone they once knew. One by one, Kemmerich, Muller,
Kropp, Tjaden, Detering, Haie, Katczinsky, Leer, Ginger, all of them: dead.
Yet Paul remains. To live his life in the silence the war brings.
Erich Maria Remarque brings his own experience of such matters to
“All Quiet on the Western Front.” He was in combat during World War I,
and was wounded several times during the course of his service. He
brings you the personal side of what war is, and with those who
participated in this (fictitious) war. The emotion is real, though the
characters are not. It is said to be the greatest war novel of all time.
After reading All Quiet on the Western Front tell me if you don’t see war
in a whole new perspective, one that in all it’s chaos eluded you before.