All Quiet On The Western Front Setting Analysis

650 Words3 Pages
Remarque uses the First World War as a primary setting in All Quiet on the Western Front to show the frontline experiences of Paul Baumer, an 18-year-old recruit for the German army who loses his innocence through his experiences in war. The opening of the novel juxtaposes the instances Paul considers “wonderfully good” (7) with instances of pure terror and fear on the battlefields of France, forcing him to become “hard, suspicious, pitiless, vicious, tough…” (26). Remarque uses the battlefield’s unrelenting violence to communicate a sense of terror amongst the soldiers in his vivid depictions of “shells, gas clouds, and flotillas of tanks – shattering, corroding, death. Dysentary, influenza, typhus – scalding, choking, death. Trenches,…show more content…
Using flashbacks Remarque recalls Paul’s school experiences with his teacher Kantorek who, in his speeches of German nationalism, convinced Paul and his classmates to join the ranks and fight for his country. The school is not depicted as a “safe” and nurturing to young men, but rather an institution founded on structure and civic duty that breeds future soldiers blinded by idealism. Even at home, no one is safe from the dangers of war and the battlefield. Throughout much of the novel Paul recalls his experiences in the classroom with fondness, but neglects to recognize how his inevitable fate in the war is directly tied to the influence Kantorek’s classroom rhetoric. Even more impactful to Paul’s experience, perhaps in a negative way, are Paul’s journeys home during the war. Throughout the novel Paul’s longing to return home dominates much of the novel’s narration. Paul consistently yearns for the years and experiences of adolescence that precede his experiences in the war, but when he encounters them both on leave and as a result of his injury, he rejects them. He quickly recognizes that “the world of our parents [is] a thing incomprehensible to us” (122). Home for Paul, and his romantic notions of it, is destroyed when he recognizes his own incompatibility with society due to his experiences in war.
Open Document