- Describe a significant change in the text.
Explain how this change impacted at least one character.
War is horrific. In Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ the reader sees how a change in war can impact someone. In this case it is a young Paul Baumer who is constantly messed with by the scenes of war and going from the battlefield, home and then back to the battlefield. ”All at once terribly alone” Paul was fresh out of highschool when he signed up for World War One. Kantorek, his headmaster at the time, had made it out to Paul and his classmates that war was going to be one big adventure but he failed to mention how truly terrifying it would be.
‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ was written by Erich Maria Remarque and published in 1929 however it was written during and after World War with the themes being set around a young Man by the name of Paul Baumer and his comrades. Remarque has a personal connection to the story, he and a number of his classmates were drafted into the German Army, after a period of training camp they were sent off to the Western Front. He took part in trench warfare in Flanders, Belgium. Remarque wrote ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ due to his experiences and he wanted to let the world know how truly horrifying and sickening war actually was. A short while after the novel was released it quickly caught the eye of the NAZI regime, they dismissed all things that Remarque had written in the book saying that it wasn’t true and Remarque was lying to try and get the public to turn on their own country. In 1933 Remarque was forced to leave the country due to this, he fled to Switzerland, his German Citizenship was relieved of him during this time.
“Death is working through from within”. There is a huge change right at the start of the story where Paul and his classmates transition from just graduating to military training and then going and actually fighting and killing up near the front lines. This is such a big deal and change because for Paul’s whole life up until the moment he first went to the training camp, he didn’t have a care in the world about his safety or what he might have to do to stay alive. Even with his head master, Kantorek telling Paul and his classmates what they might expect when going to war, it was a massive shock to Paul when he realised that the only way for him to survive was to kill another human being. The military training that he first went through before going to war was designed to change him. Paul soon realised that in order for the young soldiers to harden up they had to basically be bullied by the drill sergeant. While Paul and his classmates went through a hard military camp it was nothing compared to what they would later experience in the trenches. Later on after Paul and his group arrive on the battlefield, Paul’s childhood best friend, Kemmerich is shot in the leg and taken to a small hospital on sight. “I don’t argue”…”It’s Pointless” this quote comes directly from Paul as he realises that no matter how much he argues the matter, there is nothing the nurses and doctors can actually do to stop Kemmerich from dying. Paul realises after Kemmerich’s death how Kemmerich is just another statistic, there is nothing special done for him once he dies apart from getting his body dumped onto a tarpaulin. It occurs to him that so many people died that individuals no longer matter. Both of these instances link to the question on how a change can impact a character, in this case it is Paul going from peace to hell and then having to see his best friend die. This change affected him mentally and he had to adapt to these things happening. Remarque makes a point when Paul says “It is pointless” that war only leads to death and that it is so pointless because millions of people just end up dying.
“The Blood’s on my hands” this quote is literal as Paul does actually have another soldier’s blood on his hands. Paul is under attack so he dives into a shell crater. Soon after hiding out in the crater a soldier jumps into the shell hole that Paul is in, Paul’s immediate reaction is to jump at the soldier and kill him, he does so by stabbing him in the stomach however this does not kill the soldier instead he lays there in a great deal of pain in front of Paul, coughing and groaning in agony. Just as Paul was about to finish the French soldier off something clicked, Paul pulled back and shuffled away from the soldier then sat there in his thoughts for a moment. Remarque’s quote is figurative because Paul is now guilty of murder, he physically has another man’s blood on his hands as well as the guilt of attempting to murder the soldier. As Paul creeps closer to the soldier once again the French soldier struggles and tries to get away, however Paul’s thoughts are now onto trying to help the man instead of killing him. Upon putting bandages around the soldiers wounds to stop the bleeding he discovers some of the personal items on him, photos of the man’s wife and child put Paul into a spiral. He discovers that the man’s name is Gerard Duvel. “This dying man has time with him, he has an invisible dagger with which he stabs me: Time and my thoughts” means that Gerard Duvel nothing but painful time until he passes, Paul decides to give Gerard his time and his thoughts by staying with him, making sure that Gerard doesn’t feel alone in his final moments. This moment in the story links to the question as it has a huge change on Paul as he realises for the first time that the enemy is just a bunch of real, ordinary people like himself. Remarque is making a point here about how pointless war is because humans are just alike each other, though they may come from a different race or speak a different language, we are all still the same. This discovery that Paul made changed the story a bit as he realised what he had done, most of the story reflects on that moment as he now realises that war is basically a scam.
“The terror of the front sinks deep down when we turn our backs upon it…but we do not forget it” just before paul leaves to go home Remarque explains to us how the war has affected so many things, Paul and his comrades experienced so many horrific things that it is quite literally hard for them to forget what they have seen and what they have had to do. A big change was Paul going home, he had just started to really start to settle into the war and get used to it then he was put on leave, although Paul couldn’t wait to go home, he also dreaded the fact that his mother and sister would see him like this. Remarque uses quotes to help us understand what Paul is feeling at this time. “You are at home, you are at home, but a sense of strangeness will not leave me, I cannot feel at home amongst these things” This quote comes directly from Paul as he struggles with the change of being home and seeing all his belongings and his family, he gets a sense that makes him feel like he does not belong there. “But I am not myself there. There is a distance…a veil between us” Paul feels as though he cannot go back to the way he was before the war, he feels that when he is home he is not his normal self because of how much it has changed him. Remarque uses a Veil as a way of telling the reader that Paul feels like there is a barrier between who he used to be and how he is now. Paul no longer shares the same interests as his old self.
War is still occurring throughout the world to this day, mainly in the Ukraine and Russia war and then now the Israel and Palestine war. Even now with these wars we see how a sudden change such as another country raiding another one to win it over can have a huge impact on the people who live there. “There was nothing of their world left” this quote relates to both Paul and the ongoing problems in the real world. The quote means that Paul literally had nothing of his world left, even if he survived he would still remember everything, he would have trouble living the life he was supposed to have. The whole point of Remarque making Paul die in the end of the story was to show that Paul would not be able to go on after the war and have a happy life and forget about everything because then that would defeat the whole purpose of the points of The Lost Generation and The Horror of War.