Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front is the story of young man’s experience in World War I. The central theme of the story is the destructive power of war on the human identity. The main character, Paul Baumer, is transformed by what he experiences in the trenches on the front lines of the war.
The following would be a good point of intervention for a short story that expands on this storyline: At one point in the story, in chapter seven, Baumer is home on leave. The story demonstrates his transformation in this chapter by showing how estranged Paul has become from his family. The war has changed him so much that he can no longer relate to them, and his visit is not a happy one. During his stay, his father takes him out (wanting to show off his soldier-son) to a get-together with some other older men. As Paul listens to them, he realizes how far he has grown apart from the people of his town, and he also realizes how unrealistic their view of war is. To them it is just a matter of strategy and camaraderie. But to Paul it is life and death and the loss of the identity he had before the war. Paul does not attempt to change their ideas about the war or make them see his side of the war, he simply stops participating in the discussion.
Suppose Paul were to tell the old men about what he went through in graphic detail? Could they be dissuaded from their romantic view of war? Could they begin to understand how Paul feels? This could actually serve as a story within the story, and as Paul narrates a previously unknown event from the war to his father’s friends the reader would experience the story at the same time.