Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

All we know about the circumstances of Paul's death is that he was killed on the front lines on an otherwise quiet day. His death was not part of a big battle or heroic action. Since the book is mostly told from Paul's point of view while he was alive, we do not have his own account of his death. Like everyone else it seems, we have to rely on the official military report that simply states "all quiet on the Western Front." At least we can assume that Paul died relatively quickly and without too much agony from the statement that follows which says that "his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come."

Although the book does not describe how Paul died, the 1930 cinematic version of All Quiet on the Western Front does attempt to fill in the blanks. In the film, Paul is shot dead by a French sniper as he calmly and carelessly reaches out of his trench in an attempt to touch a butterfly.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The report of Paul's death is couched in the language of officialdom and bureaucracy. We're simply told that Paul "fell." This was a euphemism—a way of making something unpleasant sound a little nicer—commonly used by both sides in World War I to describe the deaths of their soldiers. Perhaps Paul was shot; perhaps he was killed by a falling shell or a burst of shrapnel. We just don't know. But one thing we do know is that, in the overall scheme of things, Paul's death doesn't mean all that much to the powers that be, the generals and politicians waging this terrible conflict. They're concentrated on the bigger picture, on the overall state of the war. From their strategic standpoint, all is quiet on the Western front, and that's all that really matters.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial