Examine the significance of how the experience of war changes Paul's attitude towards authority.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As the narrative progresses, Paul becomes more disenchanted with authority.  He understands that no authority can govern what is happening on the front, in the reality of battle.  A great example of this disenchantment with and disengagement with authority comes in chapter 6.  Paul notes how the new recruits seem to be equipped with "theoretical knowledge."  In detailing this, he talks about how they have not been instructed on the practical realities of survival.  In their manner of approaching sensory perception to how they cling together as a group, "like sheep," instead of spreading out, Paul recognizes that part of the reason why the new recruits are so fundamentally useless is because they have not been trained efficiently.  Paul's analysis in this portion of the narrative suggests that the individuals in the position of power are desperate to continue the war and simply "throw bodies" at the problem as opposed to training them significantly and in a worthwhile manner.  It is for this reason that Paul remarks that the new recruits are "like children" on whom the uniforms do not fit as they were never made for such "dimensions" of children.  Paul's recognition of this reality can serve to demonstrate how his attitude towards authority is changing.  He no longer believes in its certainty and authenticity.  He recognizes it as a force that is disconnected from the reality in which he lives, one that cannot alleviate the fundamental truths of death and suffering that underscore it.  In this, Paul reflects the alienation with World War I that typifies Modernism and how many soldiers viewed authority in the wake of the horrors the war demonstrated.

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