What is an explanation of the last paragraph of the text of All Quiet on the Western Front?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter Six of All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul Baumer reflects upon his and his comrades' experiences at the front where they have been witness to the horrors of war, having seen the earth torn and scorched as a "gloomy world of automatons" run about; they have witnessed a lance corporal have his head torn off with his neck spouting blood "like a fountain"; they have known hunger in the trenches, fought rats for their bread, killed, and been wounded themselves. Paul narrates,

We have lost all feeling for one another....We are insensible, dead men, who through some trick, some dreadful magic, are still able to run and to kill.

And, yet, Paul remembers the beautiful poplar by a stream at home. The "pure fragrance" of the water and the wind's melody through the poplars still stirs his heart despite what he has experienced.

Thus, in the final paragraph of the novel as Paul continues to describe his death as being as he has done in Chapter Six. "I am very quiet," he narrates, but he counters that the life "that has borne me through these years" still courses through his hands and is yet in his eyes. Ironically, however, the life that has sustained him through the years is really a living death because he has dulled his senses in order to be inured to the horrible memories of battle. However, Paul knows that this memory of war will find its way to his consciousness despite his efforts to suppress it and destroy his damaged spirit.  In other words, as he expressed himself in Chapter Six, "We are lost."

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All Quiet on the Western Front

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