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Within Chapters 1-6 how is the theme of the senselessness of war developed in All Quiet...

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lyd-wil | Honors

Posted May 15, 2013 at 8:17 PM via web

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Within Chapters 1-6 how is the theme of the senselessness of war developed in All Quiet on the Western Front?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 16, 2013 at 1:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Paul prefaces his narrative of war with the deluded appeal of Kantorek to his students to enlist,

Kantorek would say that we stood on the threshold of life. And so it would seem.  We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away.....We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a wasteland....With our young awakened eyes we saw that the classical conception of the Father land held by our teacher resolved itself here into a renunciation of personality....

  • In Chapter Two, shortly after they enlist, Paul's childhood friend Franz Kemmerich is wounded and has to have his leg amputated. Shortly thereafter, he dies, his life cut short by the war. Paul narrates, "I won't revile any more, it is senseless...."
  • In Chapter Three, the postman Himmelstoss lets getting a promotion inflate his ego and he is cruel to the men under him, humiliating and punishing them, in an abuse of his rank.  The men are forced to go through the "absurdities of saluting and parade" when they are not at the front.
  • In Chapter Four, the men go into battle and must put on their gas masks and go solely on animal instinct. In the battle, horses are senselessly wounded:

It's unendurable.  It is the moaning of the world, it is the martyred creation, wild with anguish, filled with terror, and groaning.

Detering, a farmer is enraged "Shoot them, can't you?" When the men are finally able to put the horses out of their misery, Detering curses. 

"Like to know what harm they've done....I tell you it is the vilest baseness to use horses in the war."

Further, the men find a soldier whose hip is "mincemeat" and his arm is also wounded. Kat whispers that they should put the poor young man out of his misery,

The youngster will hardly survive the carrying, and at the most he will only last a few days. What he has gone through so far is nothing to what he's in for till he dies....Every day that he can live will be a howling torture. And to whom does it matter whether he has them or not-

...Such a kid---...Young innocents."

  • 0In Chapter Five, the men feel "ruined" by the war. When they return home, they will be so changed. Kropp senses the difference:

"It will go pretty hard with us all. But nobody at home seems to worry much about it.  Two years of shells and bombs--a man won't peel that off as easy as a sock."

Paul narrates that they no long believe in much--"we believe in the war."

  • In Chapter Six, Paul and the others return to the front and are so bombarded that provisions cannot get to them. Rats run through the trenches and the men must battle the rats for their bread. Then, the bombardment begins and the men are "benumbed." It is in this chapter that Paul witnesses some of the worst horrors of the war as men are blown apart and for "one mad moment the whole slaughter whirls like a circus around" Paul. He feels that he and the men "have become wild beasts" who destroy and kill to save themselves.

...we will kill, for they are still our mortal enemies, their rifles and bombs are aimed against us, and if we don't destroy them, they will destroy us....We have lost all feeling for one another.                  

Further in the chapter, Paul remarks that the memories of his youth and their desires unattainable, for they can never again

...regain the old intimacy with those scenes.....the communion the feeling of comradeship....Today we would pass through the scenes.... I believe we are lost.

We see time pass in the colourless faces of the dying...

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