After Serbiarefused to apologize to Austria for the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand,Germany pushed Austria to declare war. Germanys desire to start a war can beexplained by the internal tensions that were increasing in the country at thetime. The assassination was a timely scapegoat to direct the peoples attentionand animosity to external sources. In short, on July 28, 1914, Austria declaredwar on Serbia and the allies of each country joined in, starting this globalwar. Paul Baumer is a young soldier who volunteered to enter into the Germanarmy with a group of his schoolmates.
All the events that take place in thenovel are seen through Pauls eyes, they are described on the basis of theperspective of this young soldier. In the first chapter, Paul recalls thereasons for why he and his friends enlisted. He talks about their schoolmaster,Kantorek, who would lecture them constantly on the fact that they should joinup (pg. 11). Another reason that played as a factor for many young men beingso enthusiastic to join the army was the propaganda of the time. Nationalism wasthe theme in the propaganda that persuaded the men to enlist.
It was taught toyoung minds that it was their obligation to protect and to die for their countryif they loved their nation and their people. As the novel goes on, it depictsscenes of combat that Paul lives through. It describes the type of warfare thatis used and the thoughts that run through Pauls mind as he sits in the trenchhoping he doesnt die. As Paul and the other soldiers move closer to thefront, their chances for survival become slimmer. The front that is referred to,is in Belgium, and it is the boundary that the Germans were invading. The Frenchand British were attempting to get the Germans out of Belgium and this is wherethe fighting that Paul engages in and witnesses takes place.
By the sixthchapter of All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul has reached the front. Hedescribes it as being . . . a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever mayhappen. .
. and live in a suspense of uncertainty ( pg. 101 ). His descriptionof his time in the trench evokes emotion in the reader, in that they can get afeel for the kind of trauma one endures in that situation. The death tollresulting from the battles on the western front was enormous for both sides. Germans would advance through the French lines of defense but the French wouldhold their positions and slaughter Germans on a massive scale.
Both offensivestrategies and defense plans on behalf of both the French and the Germans, wereoften ineffective, resulting in casualties and injury. A lot of these strategiesand tactics are described in the novel. Trench warfare is illustrated as Pauldescribes his narrow escape from death when a shell lands in the trench he is in(pg. 106). This back and forth killing ended up as a stalemate that had a deathtoll of millions. All Quiet on the Western Front also portrays the use ofthe new weapons, never before used in any previous wars.
New technology,mechanization and new tactics of warfare were implemented in the battles of thiswar. For the first time soldiers were ordered to dig ditches and fire theirmachine guns from behind the walls of these trenches. This became known astrench warfare and it was an unprecedented strategy that proved to be effectivefor a defensive war. New weaponry emerged during this war such as the flamethrower which was first used by the German army. Paul expresses concern overthis new weapon as he thinks to himself of what weapons the enemy might use (pg. 105).
Chlorine gas was first used in 1915 by the Germans, and Mustard gas,which causes severe blistering, was introduced two years later ( Text, 891). Both sides were capable of creating new weapons of destruction, so this constantprogress only resulted in increasing casualty rates, but no significantvictory. World War I was the bloodiest war that the world had ever experienced. It came to an end when Germany surrendered in 1918, mainly due to the enteringof the United States on the side of the British. The impact that the war had onthe soldiers is told in All Quiet on the Western Front.
Not only does Pauldescribe the events that he goes through, but he also describes hisunderstanding that the war has changed him forever. He doesnt believe that hecan ever return to normal life after having gone through what he has. Facingdeath and killing has made him old beyond his years and he confirms that when hesays . .
. Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk (pg. 18).
Paul describeshis acknowledgment that the war has transformed him when he describes that thesoldiers have been transformed . . . into thugs, into murderers, into God onlyknows what devils. . .
( pg. 114 ). Naturally a beast is incapable ofreturning to a civilian life. This is the unfortunate fate of the soldiers whosurvived the war.Book Reports