Chapter 12 Summary
Another summer is gone and another autumn has arrived. Not many who fought from the beginning, the old ones, are left; Paul is the only one of his seven classmates to survive. All around him there are rumors of peace and treaties, but there have been such rumors before. Peace must come after such rumors or there will be consequences. If the war does not end soon, Paul believes there will be a revolution.
Paul is relaxing while on two weeks of rest because he swallowed a little gas. He hungers for many things—is greedy for home and life and freedom—but has no goals for his future. He reflects that if the war had ended two years earlier, the soldiers may have had a chance to be something; they might have “unleashed a storm.” Instead, they will return to their former lives as tired, broken, empty, and hopeless men; they will no longer be able to be productive or creative citizens. Even worse, no one will comprehend their situation. The generation ahead of them lived through the war, it is true; however, they have established lives and professions to which they will return. They will refocus and be okay. They will be able to forget the war. For the younger generation there will be no patience or understanding for former soldiers such as him; they will be cast aside and made irrelevant. Some may be able to adapt, but most will not.
Perhaps, Paul thinks, he is simply depressed and being pessimistic because he feels alone and aimless. Surely the beauty of the trees and the leaves that once inspired him can inspire him still. The books that prompted him to think of complex things and yearn for the unknown might prompt him still. Surely he will still be capable of dreaming...
(The entire section is 480 words.)