All Quiet On The Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel set in World War I, based around the
changes formed by the war on one young German soldier. During his time in the
war, the main character, Paul Baumer, changes from an innocent boy to a hardened
veteran. More importantly, during the course of this change, Baumer outcasts
himself from those societal influences that has been the base of his life before
the war. This rejection comes as a result of Baumer\'s realization that the
pre-enlistment society does not understand the reality of the Great War. His new
society and fellow soldiers then becomes his foundation because that is a group
which understands the truth as Baumer has experienced it. Remarque demonstrates

Baumer\'s withdraw from his traditional life by stressing the language of

Baumer\'s past and present societies. Baumer either can not, or chooses not to,
communicate truthfully with those representatives of his innocent and former
days. Further, he is shocked by the dull and meaningless language that is used
by members of his past society. As he becomes estranged from his former,
traditional, society, Baumer is able to communicate effectively only with his
military partners. Since the novel is told from the first person point of view,
the reader can see how the words Baumer speaks are disagreeing with his true
feelings. In his preface to the novel, Remarque maintains that "a
generation of men ... were destroyed by the war," (Remarque, All Quiet

Preface). Indeed, in All Quiet on the Western Front, the meaning of language
itself is destroyed. Early in the novel, Baumer notes how his elders had been
easy with words prior to his enlistment. Specifically, teachers and parents had
used words to persuade him and other young men to enlist in the war effort.

After relating the tale of a teacher who exhorted his students to enlist, Baumer
states that "teachers always carry their feelings ready in their waistcoat
pockets, and trot them out by the hour" (Remarque, All Quiet I. 13). Baumer
admits that he, and others, were fooled by this rhetorical deceit. Parents, too,
were not reluctant to using words to shame their sons into enlisting. "At
that time even one\'s parents were ready with the word \'coward\'" (Remarque,

All Quiet I. 13). Remembering those days, Baumer asserts that, as a result of
his war experiences, he has learned how shallow the use of these words was.

Indeed, early in his enlistment, Baumer understands that although authority
figures, "taught that duty to one\'s country is the greatest thing, we
already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that, we were no
mutineers, no deserters, no cowards-they were very free with these expressions.

We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action;
but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to
see." (Remarque, All Quiet I. 17) What Baumer and his comrades have learned
is that the words and expressions used by the society do not reflect the reality
of war and of one\'s participation in it. As the novel progresses, Baumer himself
uses words in a similarly false fashion. A number of instances of Baumer\'s own
misuse of language occur during an important episode in the novel-a period of
leave when he visits his home town. This leave is unfortunate for Baumer because
he realizes that he can not communicate with the people in his home town because
of his military experiences and their limited understanding of the war. When he
first enters his house, for example, Baumer is overwhelmed at being home. His
joy and relief are such that he cannot speak; he can only weep (Remarque, All

Quiet VII. 140). When he and his mother greet each other, he realizes
immediately that he has nothing to say to her: "We say very little and I am
thankful that she asks nothing" (Remarque, All Quiet VII. 141). But finally
she does speak to him and asks, "\'Was it very bad out there, Paul?\'" (Remarque,

All Quiet VII. 143). Here, when he answers, he lies, apparently to protect her
from hearing of the horrible conditions from which he has just returned. He
thinks to himself, "Mother, what should I answer to that! You would not
understand, you could never realize it. And you never shall realize it. Was it
bad, you ask.-You, Mother,--I shake my head and say: "No, Mother, not so
very. There are always a lot of us together so it isn\'t so bad." (Remarque,

All Quiet VII. 143). Even in trying to protect