Written in present tense, with its stark realism, 10 sections total, the pace of chapter six is relentless; the chapter reads like machine gun fire. Some passages are stand-alones--they have no connection to the paragraph before or after. They sound like lyrics to a Metallica song:
Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades--words, words, but they hold the horror of the world.
Chapter six begins with "stacked up...brand new coffins." In the middle it says there are three levels of bodies, each "on top of the other." And it ends with a march, only "thirty two men" left." This is attrition. The German high command know there will be massive casualties as they mount an offensive.
In the middle of the chapter there is mention of No Man's Land--the desolate field between the enemy's trenches. Throughout the chapter there are constant references to animals:
We have a spell from the rats in the trench. There are in No Man's Land--we know what for. They grow fat.
When Paul finds Himmeltoss in the corner pretending to be wounded with a scratch he yells at him:
You hound, you skunk!...You cow!...You swine!
Connecting men to animals shows the dehumanizing aspects of war--a kind of depersonification.
The irony is that Paul, a rank and file soldier, is ordering a superior officer to fight. Where's the moral community? Is not the moral universe turned upside-down in such a God-forsaken setting, where there is only death, no leadership, where men are animals, where animals live off men to get fat?
The overall tone is one of nihilism--a total rejection of established laws and institutions.