All Quiet on the Western Front Questions and Answers
by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front book cover
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Was Paul’s death a blessing?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The "conventional" answer to this question would probably be yes. The loss of Paul's friend Kat has already destroyed him, so Paul's own physical death is described as a kind of afterthought, a postlude to the novel. It happens so undramatically that the author's point seems to be that it makes little difference if Paul lives or dies. If he were to live, he would probably suffer from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, at that time known as "shell shock") for the rest of his life.

At the beginning of the story we are told that an entire generation has been destroyed by war. Despite the accurateness of this assessment, it's more of a metaphorical statement than a literally true one. The physical and psychological damage of being in warfare does not necessarily prevent a veteran from having a productive life after the war is over. If it did, society would have undergone a complete collapse in the aftermath of the Great War, considering how many men served, and after similar conflicts other collapses would have occurred. Like others who have undergone different kinds and levels of trauma, most are able to recreate their lives despite the scars.

In Paul's particular case this might not have been possible if he had survived, but to conclude that his death is necessarily a blessing or that he's better off dead is a kind of stereotyping about men who have been in combat, and is in my view a harsh, overly negative way of looking at the story. The author, Erich Maria Remarque, survived the war in order to write about it. Since Paul is largely Remarque's persona in the novel, it's unfair to say Paul's death was a blessing.

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