Why do the ideas of patriotism and the glory of self-sacrifice in war have appeal in All Quiet on the Western Front?Which character seems to represent ideas of patiotism and the glory of...

Why do the ideas of patriotism and the glory of self-sacrifice in war have appeal in All Quiet on the Western Front?

Which character seems to represent ideas of patiotism and the glory of self-sacrifice in war?  Why does this stance have appeal?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Kantorek, Paul's old schoolmaster, seems to represent ideas of patriotism and the glory of self-sacrifice in war.  His stance has appeal due to a number of reasons, including the sheer passion and relentlessness of the man, peer pressure, and the upbringing of the students and their parents.

Kantorek, a small man, is "energetic and uncompromising" in his insistence that joining up to promote the Germany's objectives is a sacred duty.  He subjects his impressionable young students to long lectures which are extremely moving and persuasive.  As Paul notes, teachers like Kantorek "always carry their feelings ready in their waistcoat pockets, and trot them out by the hour".  Trusting Kantorek as an authority figure, and not knowing any better, the "whole of (the) class" finally relents, with all twenty of the young men going, under Kantorek's "shepherding", to the District Commandant to enlist.

Peer pressure inarguably plays a part in convincing the boys to do their patriotic duty.  Paul tells about one student, Joseph Behm", "who hesitate(s) and (does) not want to fall into line".  He does, however, in the end, "allow himself to be persuaded, otherwise he would have been ostracized".  Ironically, Behm is one of the first to be killed on the field of battle.

The upbringing of the students and their parents also contributes to the fact that the boys ultimately all go to volunteer straight out of school.  The students themselves are good boys who, with wide-eyed innocence, sincerely want to do right and to do their duty, whatever that may be.  Their parents, apparently for the most part educated and comparatively well-off, are quick to use the word "coward" in support of the teacher's agenda.  For this reason, it would have been hard for a dissenter to "stand out" in defiance of the general trend.  Paul observes that "the wisest (are) just the poor and simple people...they (know) the war to be a misfortune, whereas those who (are) better off, and should...(be) able to see more clearly what the consequences (will) be, (are) beside themselves with joy" when the class joins up (Chapter 1).

 

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