All Quiet on the Western Front Book Analysis
16 October 2018
On July 22, 1898, Erich Maria Remarque, whose real name was Erich Paul Remark, was born in Osnabrück, Germany. He changed his middle name from Paul to Maria, in memory of his mother (thefamouspeople.com). He was the third of four children, to the parents of Peter and Anna Maria. Erich’s family was poor and moved at least eleven times during his childhood (notablebiographies.com). Once he began writing, around his late teenager years, he attended the University of Münster, planning to go for elementary education. His plans were changed when we was drafted into the army, during World War I. On June 12, 1917, he was transferred to the Western Front, at Hem-Lenglet, and then was stationed between Torhout and Houthulst (thefamouspeople.com). The environment he was placed in at young age, scarred him forever. When he was not on the front line in battle, he started his writing. He also, dated an officer’s daughter. Then in 1918, he was wounded in the left leg, right arm and neck, and was sent to an army hospital in Germany where he would spend the rest of the war (thefamouspeople.com). While at the army hospital, his mother died. After this, the frontline was simply a memory. His last injury, would be the one that would be able to send him home.
When he returned home, his writing career skyrocketed. He worked a series of jobs, like a teacher and a sports journalist. He finally settled down as a publicity director for the Continental Rubber Company, in the advertising department. After falling in love with the city of Berlin, he decided to up and move there, where he would meet his soulmate, Jutts Else Sambona. They married in 1925. The year of 1928 would change his life forever, when his book All Quiet on the Western Front was publicized in 12 different languages, over 40 million copies were sold by the time of his death in 1970 (thefamouspeople.com). With all the fame, came attention. Remarque would have multiple affairs and then be divorced from his wife. He became a US citizen in 1947, and would marry an actress Miss Paulette Goddard, and they remained together until his death (thefamouspeople.com). Throughout the course of his life he had over eight books, and won several Academy Awards.
All Quiet on the Western Front comes from the activities and experience from World War I. The war started in 1914. Remarque voices himself through the narrator Paul Baumer. At the beginning of the book, it takes place in December of 1914. When him and his high school buddies were first sent to war, they thought of it as glorious and exciting, but soon dismissed those feelings when they went through training and battle. After being enlisted, one of Baumer’s high school acquaintances, Kemmerich, was injured and ended up in the hospital. His dear friend dies a month later, and Baumer is put back on the front. Many men become excited when a rumor goes around talking about how the war is about to come to an end, but that rumor clearly dies when an excruciating battle takes place in 1916. Then, Baumer is given a six week leave to go see his family. Once he returns back to the war he is immediately placed in combat. During combat Baumer has to decide whether he will kill someone or let them kill him, and he decides he does not want to die during the war. In 1918 Baumer gets to go back home one last time. When he is put back on the frontline him and his friend, Kropp, are injured, but neither of them let it stop them from doing what they went there to do. Baumer heals and it back on the line, ready for more combat. In the fall of 1918, Baumer is killed on one of the quietest on the western front just before the end of the war that came on November 11, 1918.
This book did not have a clear intended audience. The author wanted everyone to know what war is really like from the inside perspective. Anyone could read this book, and learn from it. All Quiet on the Western Front is shown through a young German man’s perspective. It is all about his journey and experience through the war, and how the war affected him and the people around him. The narrator talks about how horrific war was having to star death straight in the face, and acting like it never happened and continuing on in the war. He discusses how hard war is physically, but it will destroy someone mentally and emotionally because of the people lost and the things seen one will never be able to forget. This book shows how the war stripped their youth away. The soldiers had to live their teen years facing terrible events. Even if they made it out of the war, they were scarred for life and usually came out unstable and depressed.
This book has many strong points, because of how descriptive the author is which each and every event of the war. Leaving nothing out, to give the reader a full effect of what the soldiers were going through. One of the main strong points is where Remarque shows how strong the relationships between the soldiers is. They have a special bond with one another, that is hard to describe. These young men are able to bond and connect with one another to get through the war together. They depend on one another to help them get through the hard times. In All Quiet on the Western Front, the author writes, “They are more to me than life, these voices, they are more than motherliness and more than fear; they are the strongest, most comforting thing there is anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades” (Remarque 212). This shows how much they need one another to get through this. They need one another to realize they are not alone, and they help them get through battle knowing they need one other. Their bond between one another keeps them from losing their minds, during this war. They are with each other, every moment of every day. This causes them to learn a lot about one another, which creates their bond. Another example is when Baumer’s companion Kat dies at the very end. They are in battle when Baumer risks his life to save Kat after he has been shot. The scene is very descriptive. Once Baumer sees Kat is hurt he goes to the rescue,
“The going is more difficult. Often a shell whistles across. I go as quickly as I can, for the blood from Kat’s wound drips to the ground. We cannot shelter ourselves properly for the explosions; before we can take cover the damage is all over” (Remarque 288).
This shows how Baumer would do anything to save Kat, his last friend. He wants nothing more than for Kat to survive because her fears loneliness. He does not want to face this war alone. The author states, “When Kat is taken away I will not have one friend left” (Remarque 288). Baumer wants nothing more than for Kat to be alright. The bond they have made is like no other, and losing one would send them over the edge. This is the strongest point of the book because it tugs on the reader’s heart strings. It shows them how little hope they had, but in one another. They were in it together, and would do whatever they had to, to help each other see the end of the war. The author writes so well about the strength of the soldiers, being able to go through all of these events.
The weak points are hard to find in this book, because it is so real. It is about real events that real soldiers go through during wars. A weak point could be how little the author gives about the main characters death, the readers follows his journey through over 200 pages, and then only gets a paragraph about how his life is ended. In All Quiet on the Western Front it states,
“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army confined itself to the single sentence: All Quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come” (Remarque 296).
It is ironic that his expression was calm, because the author writes how he is ready for the years and months to come, because it cannot get any worse, he has nothing left for the world to take from him. The author could have made this a stronger point, by giving the reader a little more, from a different perspective, until the war ends, so they know what happens. This ending was very sudden and unexpected. Another weak point is some of the parts of the book are just unnecessary and drag on. Overall, the book is very realistic, and the author did a fine job and kept the reader wanting to read on.
This book is a secondary source because it is not coming directly from someone. The author is writing from the perspective of someone else. A primary source would be firsthand evidence of an event, whereas as secondary source is an autobiography or a diary. Since this is coming from Paul Baumer’s life and is not written by him, this classifies the novel as a secondary source.
Overall, this book taught me a lot about the inside perspective of a soldier, even though some of it was sad, it was real. I would recommend this book to others, if they are interested in learning about World War I, or any type of war in general. References
Erich Maria Remarque Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Who is Erich Maria Remarque? Everything You Need to Know. (2017, November 3). Retrieved
from https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/erich-maria-remarque-4766.phpBibliography Cited Page
Eksteins, M. (1980). All Quiet on the Western Front and the Fate of a War. Journal of
Contemporary History, 15(2), 345-366. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org.proxy.bsu.edu/stable/260517Erich Maria Remarque born. (2018, August 21). Retrieved from https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/erich-maria-remarque-born