At the end of Erich Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul dies and "his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come." Do you think this is an appropriate ending...

At the end of Erich Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul dies and "his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come." Do you think this is an appropriate ending to the book? 

1 Answer | Add Yours

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It might seem rather odd for a young man who is dying to calm and even glad as he dies; however, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Remarque, depicts the many tragedies and kinds of deaths that can happen, even to young people, during a war. Paul's death does seem to be an apt way to end this novel.

Paul Baumer is only nineteen years old when he joins the war, and he sees and experiences horrific losses. It does not take Paul or his classmates long to learn firsthand that war turns young people into "old folk." Though he is in the midst of many other soldiers, Paul often feels “terribly alone” and is angry about the death, loss, and waste happening all around him. 

Even when he is free to go on leave, Paul is not happy and there is nothing that can change that. Paul and his generation enlisted in the war at the patriotic urging of the adults in their lives; after being disillusioned by the realities of war, these young soldiers have nothing for which to hope. More importantly, they left for the war as boys and came home as men; they do not have a comfortable place in society when they return to it. Paul says, “We have become a wasteland."  

While the older generations have romanticized the war and have no idea how horrific war can be, these young men know there is nothing heroic about starving, about body parts flying during an attack, or about wounds that will never heal. The extolled glories of war which compelled these boys to enlist never really existed.

By the end of the novel, the war rages on but Paul is the only one of the seven classmates (who enlisted together) who has survived. Though he is hungry for many things after being deprived of his young adulthood as well as the deprivations of war, Paul has no aspirations. There is nothing he really wants to do or be, even if he had the opportunity to do or be something. 

In the final chapter of the novel, Paul is home on leave, despondent because of these things but also glad simply to be alive. The rumors of an end to the fighting continue but are meaningless, and he knows he will be going back to the front soon. When Paul dies while sitting on a park bench, the narrator says "his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come." Given his sense of hopelessness, his lack of purpose, his loneliness, and his disillusionment, dying undoubtedly seemed like a better option to Paul than living. He was therefore "calm" and "glad" when death came for him. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question