Illustration of Paul Baumer in a German army uniform with a red background

All Quiet on the Western Front

by Erich Maria Remarque

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What are some examples of friendship in All Quiet on the Western Front?

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Friendship is probably the biggest theme in All Quiet on the Western Front. There are numerous examples of friendship being of paramount importance in the life of a soldier. In chapter five, Paul details how his friendship with Kat is unlike any he has ever felt outside of War and that they are closer than lovers. The irony is that they are cooking a goose in complete silence. He says that they are in complete unison. The are "so intimate that they do not speak."

A very sad commentary on friendship occurs when Paul is forced to kill the Frenchman Gerard Duval. Without thinking, Paul stabs him and causes him to die. As his mind begins to humanize his enemy, he is filled with sorrow at the effect that war has on human camaraderie. He thinks, "If we threw away these rifles and this uniform, you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert."

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The importance of friendship and camaraderie during the trying times of war is a key element of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel. Each time Paul Baumer grows close to another soldier, it seems that person is injured or killed. Maintaining emotional connections in those circumstances is one of the character’s strengths.

Helping him to understand how much support and friendship matter is the sergeant nicknamed Kat, for Katczinsky. As his affection encompasses the younger soldiers, Kat shows them many crucial ways to survive, including taking Paul hunting. Most important, they must pull together. The loss of this father figure helps impress on Paul that human connections may matter even more when they are very brief.

Even small kindnesses are important when the soldiers could die at any second. Paul’s friendship with Albert is emphasized when they are wounded and dress each other’s wounds, and Paul bribes a sergeant to put them on a train together. Although his wound is less severe, he worries more about his friend’s suicidal attitude.

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In the sixth chapter of All Quiet on the Western Front, specific examples of friendship can be seen in the midst of war.

Friendship is the tie that binds soldiers together. Despite the shelling, attacks, and sheer terror of war, companionship connects many of the young soldiers. This can be seen when Paul comforts his friend, Haie Westhus, in his last moments of life: "Haie Westhus drags off with a great wound in his back through which the lung pulses at every breath. I can only press his hand; 'It's all up, Paul,' he groans and he bites his arm because of the pain." The terror of the war has done much to desensitize soldiers from one another. However, Paul embodies the ethics of friendship in the midst of the war. He holds Haie's hand as he dies. This is a powerful example of friendship in the text.

Another such example is evident at the end of the chapter. After the intense shelling of the night before, the soldiers attend roll call. Paul immediately recognizes familiar faces as havens from the pain of war:

Now someone is calling the number of our company, it is, yes, the Company Commander, he has come through, then; his arm is in a sling. We go over to him and I recognise Kat and Albert, we stand together, lean against each other, and look at one another.

When they "lean against each other" and "stand together," it is clear that friendship is one of the most important elements to the soldiers in fighting off war's brutality. It represents how the soldiers need something, anything, to help them endure the unimaginable. In this way, chapter 6 of All Quiet on the Western Front displays distinct examples of friendship.

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