What incidents and metaphor in chapter 11 of All Quiet on the Western Front show that the men's nerves are frayed?
By the end of Chapter 11 of All Quiet on the Western Front, which takes place in the summer of 1918, it is clear that the German army is losing the war. The men are becoming nervous and losing their will to fight.
Paul, the narrator, says of this time:
"The summer of 1918 is the most bloody and the most terrible. The days stand like angels in blue and gold, incomprehensible, above the ring of annihilation. Every man here knows that we are losing the war" (page 284).
The metaphor (a simile) here is that days are like angels, standing above the horrors and death of war and not comprehending its carnage.
At this point in the novel, the German army does not have enough soldiers or ammunition to mount another offensive. Before the summer, some soldiers try to desert, such as Detering, who collected cherry blossoms and then tried to escape the army and head back to Germany (page 275-277). The opposing forces, composed of British and Americans, have much greater supplies and numbers of troops. Paul says, "For one hungry, wretched German soldier come five of the enemy, fresh and fit. For one German army loaf there are fifty tins of canned beef over there" (page 286). The German soldiers do not have the necessary supplies to fight.
Paul and the other men hope for peace. He says, "Wild, tormenting rumors of an armistice and peace are in the air, they lay hold on our hearts and make the return to the front harder than ever" (page 285). The prospect of peace makes the men's nerves frayed because they are so close to the end of the war and know that if they die, it will be in vain. Their deaths at this point in the war will be pointless.
Though there is talk of peace and an armistice, the soldiers have to continue fighting. Another metaphor in this chapter is that of the hope of peace. The author writes of "the breath of hope that sweeps over the scorched fields" (page 285). Hope is like the warm summer wind that entices the men to think and pray that peace is near, but, like the wind itself, peace is elusive.
In Chapter 11, the war is coming to a close and the German forces are badly suffering because they are running out of supplies. Paul says that the summer of 1918 was the worst of all because many soldiers lost their lives and even though new soldiers arrived, they were untrained and died on the front even faster. The men cannot handle the torture--they know that the war is coming to a close and look for an end every day. Paul compares the men to candles flickering:
We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out.
This metaphor suggests that the men are at the end of their strength having been tried and tested by the atrocities of war and they can take little more punishment from the battle front.