According to Kat in All Quiet on the Western Front, why does power corrupt?

Expert Answers
dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kat blames the tendency of power to corrupt on man's fallen nature.  He says,

"In himself man is essentially a beast, only he butters it over like a slice of bread with a little decorum".

According to Kat, man by nature lusts after power.  As an example, he suggests,

"...if you train a dog to eat potatoes and then afterwards put a piece of meat in front of him, he'll snap at it, it's his nature.  And if you give a man a little bit of authority he behaves just the same way, he snaps at it too".

According to this illustration, it is the man who has been "insignificant...in civil life" who reacts the worst when given a little bit of power.

Kat says that the army is based on man's natural desire for power - "one man must always have power over the other".  The problem in the army is that a man who is given power over another can abuse his station, because there are no consequences if he does so.  Because those in power over others "know they can, they all soon acquire the habit more or less" of using their power just to lord it over those under them.  Kat concludes,

"Let a man be whatever you like in peacetime, what occupation is there in which he can behave like that without getting a crack on the nose?  He can only do that in the army.  It goes to the heads of them all, you see" (Chapter 3).

 

Read the study guide:
All Quiet on the Western Front

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question