What purpose does extra description of Paul's time in the Catholic hospital serve in moving the thematic elements of All Quiet on the Western Front?

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Paul initially believes that he and Albert are fortunate to be in a Catholic hospital because these are "noted for their good treatment and good food," he discovers that the hospital can be as dangerous as the battlefield. It is not a safe refuge from the war as one might think. To reinforce Remarque's themes about the horrors of war, Paul is shocked by such sights as soldiers dying of neglect and doctors subjecting soldiers to unnecessary, experimental, painful surgery. One man is so despondent he tries to kill himself with a fork; amputations are brutally routine (reminiscent of Kemmerich's experience earlier). Watching men being taken to the Dead Room when they are deemed mortally ill and near death is depressing for all of the patients. Baumer is appalled to discover "for the first time in how many places a man can get hit" when he sees solders wounded in the jaw, joints, kidneys, intestines, head, spine, etc. Some soldiers die of tetanus or have horribly infected wounds.

Paul declares, "A hospital alone shows what war is." Remarque reveals that war is not only battles and weaponry but also the results of those encounters. Many men die in this war, but many are also wounded in terrible ways. The hospital is not a haven where men can go to recover and heal; they may also die miserable deaths there as well.

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All Quiet on the Western Front

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