.. coffins is placed against a nearby school, visually depicting the life vs. death theme. The schoolhouse causes Baumer to think about his former life. The soldiers fight fiercely, motivated by self-preservation.
Baumer comments that he would even kill his own father, flinging a bomb into him, if he were with the Allies. The fighting continues in the trenches throughout the summer. When it is time for Baumer’s company to retreat, there are only thirty-two men, out of one hundred and fifty, who return to the rear line. The remaining soldiers are relieved that they have lived through the offensive. Notes The battle depicted in this chapter is very typical of the trench warfare that took place on the Western Front throughout World War I. The fight would begin with artillery bombardment.
Then the infantry attack would begin. One side would move forward, only to be repulsed by the enemy. Later a counter-attack would ensue and be repulsed. Month after month and year after year, this type of give and take continued between the Central Powers and the Allies. Little territory was lost or gained; in fact, the Western Front stayed fairly stable through much of the war.
The vivid description of the death and destruction given in the chapter is typical of the mayhem caused by infantry fighting. The author has deliberately emphasized the brutality of war by giving horrible and grim details, like the soldiers who have had their skulls blown apart. He forces the reader to see and feel the pain of the infantrymen. But Remarque constantly contrasts the death and destruction with pictures of life. Near the trenches, there are colorful butterflies flying about; and the stack of new coffins is placed against a schoolhouse, where young children once went to learn about life. In the chapter, particular attention is paid to the new young recruits who have never before experienced a battle.
As they wait in the trenches for the fight to begin, they are hysterical to the point of madness. Once the battle begins, they fight like gawky young children who are ill-trained; as a result, they are killed like flies. Baumer identifies with these youth in their ill-fitting uniforms; he feels as lost as they do. In fact Remarque makes a reference to the fact that Baumer’s generation will become the lost generation, never fully ecovering from the emptiness and devastation of the war. Chapter 7 Because Baumer’s unit has suffered such great losses, the remaining soldiers are taken to a field depot for a period of rest. For a short while, the terrors of the war are forgotten, but Baumer knows that the memories of the battlefield mayhem will come back to haunt him.
Baumer and his friends see a poster of a pretty girl, which reminds them there is more to life than war. They decide they need to entertain themselves. When they go out for a swim, they make friends with three French girls, who are the enemy. They plan a rendezvous with the girls, and Tjaden promises to provide some food. The gathering is a lot of fun and a wonderful respite from the horrors of fighting; it also makes Baumer realize that the Allieds are not just faceless people.
The enemy women are just ordinary humans, like he and his friends. His friendship with them continues until he is granted a leave. When Baumer is given seventeen days off, he chooses to go home. Travelling by train, he sees lovely meadows, scenic farms, and happy children along the way; it is a stark contrast to the pictures of war given in the last chapter. When he arrives at his own house, Baumer’s sister sobs with joy on seeing him, and his parents are proud to have him back. Baumer, however, is a changed man because of his war experience; he cannot relate to his family. His earlier pastimes no longer hold his interest, and he is bitter about the light-hearted attitude of his small hometown about the war.
During his stay at home, Baumer visits Kemmerich’s mother; with gentleness and sensitivity, he lies and tells her that her son’s death was instantaneous. Baumer also learns that Kantorek, his former teacher, is fighting in the war as an ordinary soldier; ironically, he was assigned to the company of one of his former students, Commander Mittelstaedt. The commander takes pleasure in tormenting and taunting his former teacher; for revenge, he makes Kantorek do many menial tasks. At the end of his leave, Baumer concludes that his time off and away from the war has made matters worse for him. He is now worried about his dying mother, saddened over the realization that he has lost his youth, and concerned over the fact that he longer fits within the family or his small hometown. When he first arrived at home, he felt he was simply indifferent to life; now he feels miserable.
Notes Like Chapters 1, 3, and 5, this one again gives a picture of life away from the battlefield and serves as a bridge between two very negative chapters. The description of calm domestic life in a small German town is a stark and intentional contrast to the horrors of war described in the previous chapter. Baumer finds that he no longer fits into his family or his small hometown. He worries about his aging mother, who is dying of cancer, and laments over the fact that he has lost his own youth to the war. He grows bitter when he hears both children and adults, who are oblivious to the horrors of fighting, speak of war as if it were a game.
He is also saddened to realize that his old interests no longer have any appeal to him, making him feel more lost and isolated than ever. Baumer thinks that cominghome may have been a mistake. Baumer’s sensitive side is seen several times in the chapter. When he meets and enjoys the French girls, he suddenly realizes that the enemy is not just a faceless being; he is amazed to learn that the enemy can be a young person, just like himself, who is eager to live and enjoy life. Again his compassion and character is depicted as he lies to Kemmerich’s mother; he spares her from the details of her son’s death, telling her that the young soldier died instantaneously without pain. Chapter 8 After his leave is over, Baumer is sent to a training camp near his hometown.
His days are occupied by a routine company drill. He spends his evenings in the soldiers’ retreat, where he can play the piano. The ambience of this relaxed setting is another stark contrast to the war front, and for the moment the fighting seems far away. Baumer, however, misses his comrades and makes no attempt to find new friends. Because of his proximity, his father and sister visit him occasionally, helping to break his routine.
They tell him that his mother is in the hospital and will soon undergo an operation for her canter. Next door to the training camp, there is a Russian prisoner-of- war camp; Baumer observes its inhabitants daily and again realizes that the enemy is made up of ordinary people. Most of the prisoners, however, appear to be dying from starvation. They search for scraps of food in the garbage and sell their trinkets to the German peasants to buy food. Baumer laments that they are his enemies by decree; when his family brings him food, he always shares it with the prisoners. Baumer also complains that war has legalized mass murder and hatred amongst men. He feels an urge to crusade against war and to spread the truth about its brutality and futility.
Notes Once again this chapter emphasizes a contrast between living and dying. Baumer has been sent to a raining camp, where he is taught new drills and given some freedoms. Located next door is a prisoner of war camp for captured Russians. The prisoners, who are mistreated and starved, appear to be close to death. Baumer’s heart goes out to them, and he even shares his food with these ravaged strangers. He realizes that they are just ordinary people like himself.
The more that Baumer realizes the enemy is not a faceless being, but a real human, the more he wants to crusade against war; he believes he will do so after the fighting is over. This planning for the future reveals that Baumer still has hope that he will survive the war. Chapter 9 When Baumer returns to his unit, he finds that they have been assigned to the area of the Western Front where fighting is the heaviest. In spite of this news, he is happy to be reunited with his friends; for the moment, he feels rejuvenated and whole again. His contentment will not last for long. Soon there is a lot of excitement, for the Kaiser is coming for an inspection of the unit. New uniforms are issued, and everything is cleaned and polished. When the Kaiser arrives, Baumer is disappointed to see that he is a short man with a thin voice; he also resents that the Kaiser claims that war is necessary.
Baumer thinks that war is wrong; both sides claim they have a just cause, but neither really does. Baumer’s company is sent to the front. During the fighting, Baumer is pinned in a shell hole and separated from his friends, causing him to panic. As enemy troops pass by, he lies face down, pretending to be dead. A French soldier jumps into the hole with him.
In panic, Baumer stabs him. Immediately remorseful for his actions, he tries to bandage the young soldier and give him water. In spite of Baumer’s efforts, the soldier, Gerald Duval, dies. He learns that the dead French soldier was a printer with a wife and child. Baumer resents the fact that he has been reduced to the bestiality of murdering a fellow human being. He also resents that the war seems to be fought to satisfy the whims of people in higher authority, like the Kaiser.
He again vows to crusade against war in the future. After dark, Baumer emerges from his hole and returns to his unit. The next day he tells Kat and Kropp about Gerald Duval. They try to comfort him and tell him that he has done the right thing. Baumer tries to calm his own conscience and justify the murder by saying, War is war.
Notes Baumer is happy to be reunited with his soldier friends; they are the only people to whom he can now relate. He can talk about his feelings with them, and they always understand. When he is separated from them on the battlefield, Baumer panics; but he gains enough self-control to save himself from the enemy troops that are passing by. He lies face down in a shell hole and pretends that he is dead. Unfortunately, a French soldier, Gerald Duval, jumps into the shell hole with him.
In total panic about the presence of the enemy, Baumer stabs him. Immediately regretting his action, he tries to bandage Duval’s wounds, but he dies anyway. Baumer feels miserable that the war has reduced him to a murderer; he begs for forgiveness from the dead soldier, saying, Forgive me, comrade, how could you be my enemy? Suddenly the enemy has become very personal to Baumer, no more a nameless, faceless being. Chapter 10 Baumer’s unit is sent to guard a supply depot located in an abandoned village. It is an easy assignment with abundant food and supplies. Baumer and his friends relax for three weeks before the fighting begins again. Kropp and Baumer are wounded when they are trying to evacuate a village.
They are taken to a makeshift hospital and roughly examined. Baumer’s wounds are minor, but Kropp is more seriously hurt. Both men, however, want to escape and find their friends. By bribing the sergeant major with cigars, Kropp and Baumer are able to get on a hospital train headed for the rear lines. During the journey, Kropp suffers from a high fever; fearful that they will be separated because of Kropp’s condition, Baumer pretends that he too has a fever.
When the train stops, both men are placed in the same hospital. There they meet Josef Hammacher, who is proud to have a shooting license; this certificate states that Josef cannot be held responsible for his actions, for he is a deranged man. All the soldiers in the hospital are close to death. Baumer watches as Franz Wachter dies of a septic wound. Then he learns that Kropp’s leg has been amputated; he is to be sent to an institute for artificial limbs.
Baumer must also have surgery, for his bones are not healing as expected. After he recuperates, Baumer is given a short leave before he must return to the front. Notes This chapter again serves as a contrast between living and dying. Baumer’s unit has been given the easy assignment of guarding a supply depot. For three weeks, he and his friends enjoy abundant food and supplies. It almost feels like civilian life.
Always close by to these scenes of life, the war wages on. It soon catches up with Baumer and his friends. During the shelling, they try to evacuate a nearby village. Kropp and Baumer, however, are hit. Kropp has some serious wounds; Baumer’s are more minor.
Baumer’s intelligence and compassion are again seen in this chapter. When Kropp runs a high fever on the train, Baumer pretends to have one as well; he heats up a thermometer to make the medical staff think he is seriously hurt, like Kropp. Baumer is determined not to be separated from his friend. The trick works and both soldiers are placed in the hospital together. Kropp’s leg is amputated, and Baumer undergoes surgery. While he is in the hospital, Baumer reflects on his war experiences. He again questions why war is waged.
He also wonders what will happen to his generation after suffering the trauma of death and desolation caused by the war. He knows that he will never again be the same man; he will be haunted throughout his life by the brutality and loss he has seen. During the chapter, Remarque gives a vivid description of the badly wounded patients and the substandard conditions of the hospital. The atmosphere is desolate, cold, and grim; the Doctors are cruel and treat the patients as guinea pigs. Every type of injury imaginable can be seen in the wards. A wartime hospital quickly exposes the brutality of battle.
Chapter 11 The German army begins to collapse; it cannot stand up against the replenished supplies and troops given by the United States to the Allieds. The remaining German soldiers are so weary of the war that they function without thought or feeling, almost like automatons; they feel the only way they will leave the fighting is to be dead or hospitalized. Most of Baumer’s comrades, including Muller, Leer, and Bertnick, have already been killed. One day Detering, one of Baumer’s few remaining friends, sees a cherry tree in full blossom. The sight causes him to think about his farm and his family; longing to return to his home, Detering deserts the infantry; however, he is quickly caught and court- martialed.
During a battle, Kat is hit in the leg by a bullet. Baumer puts his injured friend on his back to carry him to the nearest medical station. On the way, Kat is hit again, this time in the head. When Baumer arrives at the station, Kat is already dead. The loss of his best friend is a devastating blow for Baumer.
Notes Things are going badly for the Germans. American reinforcements of soldiers and supplies are taking their toll on the forces of the Central Powers. Many German infantrymen have been killed, and those remaining are too weary of battle to fight well or intelligently. Baumer himself has a very negative attitude, feeling tired, depressed, isolated, and lost. It is a preparation for his death in the final chapter. Throughout the war, Baumer has been completely dependent on his friends for pleasure and emotional security; but the war has taken them away one by one.
The leather boots, a recurring image throughout the novel, have become the symbol of passing friendship. Originally Kemmerich got the boots from an unnamed airman. When Kemmerich dies, the boots pass to Muller and then on to Baumer. He has promised them to Tjaden if something should happen to him. As he thinks about his many losses in the war, Baumer begins to believe that the only way to emerge from the fighting is in a coffin or through a hospital.
His friend Detering literally throws in the towel. When he sees a blossoming cherry tree, a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings, it reminds him of his farm and family. As a result, he decides to choose life over death. He deserts the infantry and heads for home; however, he is quickly caught and punished. At the end of the chapter, Baumer is again in the trenches with his remaining friends.
Suddenly Kat is hit by a bullet. Baumer attempts to carry him on his back to get medical attention. Along the way, Kat is hit again and dies. The death of Kat, who has been has best friend, completely destroys Baumer; he now has no one or nothing to turn to. Chapter 12 By autumn of 1918, Baumer is the only one of the six classmates still alive.
He is amazed that he has lasted so long, when all of them have perished; he is also amazed to hear talk of peace. As the chapter begins, Baumer has been given a two-week period of rest because he has been sick with gas poisoning. He uses this time to reflect on his wartime losses and lament the pitiful condition of this generation that has lost hope and spirit; he worries about his own future. In the last two paragraphs of the novel, the point of view is changed from Baumer’s first person to third person. Contained in the paragraphs is an epitaph written for Baumer, who was killed only one month before the Armistice. Ironically, on the day of his death, all was quiet on the Western Front.
Notes The last chapter is filled with irony. Although there is talk of peace, Baumer cannot feel hopeful. He has been granted a rest because of gas poisoning and uses the time to reflect on the fact that he is the only one of his classmates who has survived the war; but he worries about his own future and the future of his generation, which has been stripped of hope and spirit by the devastation of the war. With bitter irony, Baumer is killed one month before the armistice. His physical death is not actually described, for it is anti-climatic; the real death for Baumer came with the departure of his friends. Each time he lost one of them to the war, a little of Baumer would also be lost; then when he lost his last and best friend, Kat, it was almost more than Baumer could bear.
As a result, his death is almost a relief. In dying Baumer will be permanently re-united with his friends. Perhaps that is why Remarque chose the day of his death to be All Quiet on the Western Front; it is not a frightening and brutal end for Baumer, but a peaceful beginning.