What are Paul’s experiences in the hospital in Chapter 10 of All Quiet on the Western Front?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After Paul's arm is wounded and his leg broken, he is taken to the hospital. There the doctors are quick to amputate rather than try to save limbs, but after one doctor probes around Paul's wounded arm, he finally comes up with a shell. Paul's leg is also placed in a splint, then plastered; however, the lice continue to torture him under the cast. 

Paul is transferred to a Catholic hospital where he is well treated. However, when the sisters pray and leave the door open, Paul and the other men are angered and yell, "Shut the door!" Finally, Paul is so incensed because he wishes to sleep that he throws a bottle. However, when the inspector arrives to investigate the incident, one patient, Josef  Hamacher, takes the blame, reporting that he has a condition caused from a head wound that often leads him to do irrational things.

One night another patient, Franz Wachter asks the men to ring because he thinks he has a hemorrhage. Paul rings, but the night sister does not come; finally, she arrives, asking why someone has not called her sooner. Paul notices that Franz's color is yellowish now. One day his bed is vacant and Josef tells Paul that Franz is in the "Dead Room," a room where patients go who are dying. Then, a new occupant is in Franz's bed by afternoon. Soon, "little Peter" who has had a lung injury is also taken, but he shouts, "I will come back again!" 

Paul has his arm operated on, but is told that his bones will not grow together. New arrivals come who have flat feet. Wise Josef warns them not to let the doctor operate because he will ruin their feet. Josef tells the soldiers,

"What he wants is little dogs to experiment with, so the war is a glorious time for him, as it is for all the surgeons."

But, they are mere privates and are brow-beaten into being operated upon.  Meanwhile Albert is not faring well with his wounded leg, and he contemplates suicide. But, the others convince him to have his leg amputated, and the operation goes well. Amazingly, Peter returns from the Dying Room. "What do you say now?" he asks.

After witnessing the shattered bodies of men, Paul concludes, "A hospital alone shows what war is." With great melancholy, Paul narrates,

Through the years our business has been killing;--it was our first calling in life. Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards? And what shall come out of us?

The oldest patient is a man named Lewandowski, who is forty and has been a patient for ten months.  Eagerly, he anticipates a visit from his wife, but he contracts a fever and must stay in bed. However, he has his heart set on lovemaking with his wife, so the men in sympathy and camaraderie for Lewandowski form a fence around the bed with their backs turned. They talk loudly and laugh as they play cards to drown out any other sounds and to make the couple feel more intimate in the bed. Two men stand guard at the door. Paul narrates,

We now feel ourselves like one big family, the woman is happy and Lewandowski lies there sweating and beaming.

Mrs. Lewandowski hands the men sausages; they call her "Mother" and thank her. The family has been reunited and the moment cherished, for the Lewandowskis do not know when they will again see each other.

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All Quiet on the Western Front

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