All Quiet on the Western Front
Study and Discussion Guide
1. Where are the men “at rest”? Five miles behind the front
2. Why is there such an abundance of rations? Miscalculation – did not count on so much of a lose of life on the front.
3. Who is the narrator? How old is he? Paul Bäumer – 19 years old
4. Identify the following:
A. Tjaden - skinny locksmith; biggest eater (19)
B. Albert Kropp – clearest thinker; lance-corporal
C. Muller G. Detering – smart; dreams of exams; carries textbooks with him
D. Leer - full beard; likes girls from officers’ brothels
E. Haie Westhus – peat-digger (19)
F. Stanislaus Katczinsky – leader of group; 40; shrewd, cunning
G. Detering – a peasant; thinks of farmyard and wife
5. What is symbolic about Leer’s name? Leer means to have a lustful or sly look as Leer does.
6. Why do the men feel hostile toward Ginger? He resists in giving them the extra rations and continually makes them come back from the fighting to get their own food whereas other cooks bring it up to the men at the front.
7. What is unusual about the latrine facilities? They do not have a roof, and most of them choose to use the latrines that can be moved so that they can sit in a circle and play cards and gossip while they relieve themselves.
8. What has changed about these men? They are no longer shy about simple things like using the latrine in front of others.
9. What is a “latrine-rumour”? They were like gossip-shops.
10. Who is Kantorek? The boys’ schoolmaster who convinced them to go to war because it was the honorable and courageous thing to do.
11. Why does Muller wish Kantorek were there? So that he could show him how it really was on the front.
12. What different attitudes about war were held by the “poor and simple” and those who were “better off”? The “poor and simple” knew the reality of suffering and so were not deceived by the talk of courage and heroism like the “better off”.
13. What is the double horror of Behm’s death? Because he was shot in the eye, left for dead, and then stumbled back to the troops, only to be shot again because he could not see the enemy as he was shot in the eye.
14. What is Muller’s plan for Kemmerich’s boots? Do you think this is cruel? Muller plans to keep Kemmerich’s boots for himself. This could be considered cruel because Muller is more concentrated on the boots, but the reality of it is that they see so much death out there, and for Muller to survive, he must look out for his own needs well beyond Kemmerich’s death. In this case, he must consider how to replace his worn boots with Kemmerich’s before his are so worn out that he can’t function on the front.
15. What does the theft of Kemmerich’s watch tell us about the moral decay fostered by war? That even as a man is dying, others are only thinking about their profit – they are turned into animals, only worried about survival.
16. What is the mood/atmosphere of Chapter 1? There is some humor, but mostly we are being introduced to the ironies and finite corruptness of death and survival in a war.
17. Although the novel is told from the German point-of-view, what universal view does it offer of war? That death corrupts and takes the humanity slowly from all men no matter their background (you may have other views/reads on this as well).
18. Why is Kantorek wrong in referring to these young men as “Iron Youth”? Because they are not youth anymore, since they have aged so much by the cruelties of the war, and they are not iron, they only distract themselves by not thinking about the cruelties.
19. Why is Paul bitter in his feelings toward Kantorek? Because they feel mocked and tricked by his claims of valour about their participation in the war.
1. Why does Paul refer to his generation as a “waste land”? Because they have left the connections of their families without making new families or aspirations. The time of their life that is supposed to be formed through experiences of love, family, and success has only been tainted by war.
2. Who is Corporal Himmelstoss? He is the leader of No.9 platoon in which all of the boys/men previously described are stationed. In civilian life, he was a postman, and he often gives Tjaden and Paul a hard time/extra ridiculous commands to complete.
3. What prejudice does Paul have against small men? Why? Paul does not like small men because he believes that they try to make up for their lack in size with the power that they are given. They wield the power in a very unhealthy way, taking out their lifetime of feeling small on those who aren’t weak and small as they are.
4. How do Paul and Kropp get revenge on Himmelstoss? They wait until the end of their training, and then they wait to “attack” him as he leaves a bar one night. Because he is drunk and distracted by his own singing, Himmelstoss does not see they boys as they come up behind him, put a sheet over his head, hit him, pull his drawers down and whip him on the buttocks.
5. According to Paul, what is the finest thing to arise from the war? COMERADESHIP
6. What makes Kemmerich’s death so personal for Paul? They grew up together.
7. What is significant about Kemmerich’s telling Paul to take the boots for Muller? It shows that Kemmerich understands that he is going to die, and that Muller meant no harm in asking for the boots, it is merely a necessity for survival on the front.
8. What is the great hunger Paul feels after Kemmerich’s death? (up for interpretation) For that which could have been possible had the war not occurred, things such as, “girls … flowery meadows … white clouds...” (p.33)
9. Describe the character of Paul from what you have learned in the first two chapters. He is caring, a loyal friend, marred by what he has found the world to be, brave, survivor, fun…(find passages in the first two chapters that support this).
10. Kemmerich’s death illustrates part of the central message of the novel. Do you have an idea of what this message is?
War destroys innocence, steals life, and concerns itself with nothing, not even the individual. War steals from the innocent and gives to the whole. ETC.
1. Why is it ironic that Paul and his comrades refer to themselves as “stone-age veterans” when they compare themselves to the new recruits? They are only about a year older and only a few months more on the front than the new recruits.
2. Describe Katczinsky. What is his special talent? He is very street smart. In civilian life he is a cobbler, but understands most trades. Special Talent = He can find food anywhere.
3. What is Kat’s philosophy of war? That the hierarchical organization (and pay) of the army drags the war on unnecessarily (see the rhyme on pg. 41). What is Kropp’s philosophy of war? That if you could just set the two leaders to fighting and then declare the winner’s country the winner of the war, war would be more just because the “right” people would do the fighting. What is the author’s intention in expounding these? (open for interpretation) – To point out that innocent men fight the war of nations and that spending so much time fighting for a cause causes men to think deeply about why they are fighting.
4. What is Kropp’s philosophy concerning power given to insignificant men? That since they are insignificant, when they get power, they abuse it.
5. Who is coming to the front? Himmelstoss Why do these men strongly anticipate his arrival? Because of the way that he mistreated them in the barracks – especially the bed-wetter - Tjaden.
1. Why are Paul and his comrades sent to the front? As backup
2. How do the men change as they approach the front? They get more and more fidgety (especially the new recruits), more serious. Why is this change necessary? They need to get more serious, more aware of the danger of the front, more concentrated.
3. What happens to the horses which are used in this battle? They are severely wounded and scream in pain, so much so that Detering (a farmer) seems to almost jump up to go put them out of their misery even though the opposing side would probably take him down if he did.
4. How does Detering react to the wounding of the horses? He just wants to put them out of their misery and almost does shoot, but Kat yells at him to stop since that will only attract the attention of the enemy.
5. How do Paul and his comrades manage to save themselves from the shelling? They dive into a hole that has been created by being shelled, but they end up next to corpses because they are in a graveyard. From the gas attack? By helping each other to put on their gas masks (especially the recruits).
6. According to Remarque, how does a soldier feel about the earth? It is his only stability. It is his mother, brother, and friend, his protection.
7. What happens to the young soldier that Paul helped at the beginning of the chapter? He gets injured when a coffin lands on top of him after it is blown up by shelling. What do Paul and Kat wish to do for him? To put him out of his misery – shoot him, just as Detering wanted to do to the horses (again emphasizes the loss of their humanity and animal instincts). Why don’t they do it? Others begin to gather around as they appear from the trenches.
1. Why,can’t the men get rid of their lice? Because they have hundreds on each of their heads.
2. Why has Himmelstoss been sent to the front? Because he overdid his “lessons” of a few young recruits, and the son of the local magistrate saw and reported him.
3. How do the men treat Himmeistoss? They don’t show him any respect. In fact, they are very disrespectful.
4. How does Tjaden get in trouble with Himmelstoss? He treats him as any other soldier, not a superior. He calls him a dirty hound. Why isn’t he prosecuted? Because Paul tells the story of the bed-wetting torture.
5. What dreams do the various members of the group have about going home? Kat, Detering, and Haie will go back to their jobs, but the other boys can only dream of what would have been and may be though it will be marred – Paul talks about all of them having a private business and then living in the woods together, and he decides that he wants to do something worth them having had to go through what they are on the front now; Kropp doesn’t want to do anything because he knows he will die one day anyway. What do their dreams tell you about their characters? That they had once been able to dream (and mock their professor), but now they can’t even bear to imagine a real future separate from the war.
6. What feelings does Paul express while he and Kat are roasting the goose? That he is the closest to this man out of anyone on the earth at this point. Out of what do these feelings grow? Loneliness and the bond of experience here on the front.
1. Why do the men joke about death? They see coffins newly made and lined up against a schoolhouse that are clearly made for any of them that get killed in battle – they must joke or they could go crazy with fear and anticipation.
2. Why, according to Paul, must every man believe in Chance and trust his luck? Because there is not much else here that they can trust. “No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck.
3. Describe the men’s battle with the rats. They lure the fat rats out with gnawed pieces of bread and then fry them with their pocket torches. Then they throw the dead rats over the wall and wait to strike again.
4. How do the men know they are really cut off from all help when they are being attacked? Because the barrage is so heavy that they know that if anyone tried to get through the line, that they would get killed.
5. What often happens to the young recruits during an attack? They freeze and cannot fight. They simply cower in a corner. Why are so many of them killed? They get claustrophobic in the trenches and run out to not go crazy and end up getting shot. Also, they are listening so intently for the big bombing sounds that they miss the slight whistle of a shot coming straight for them. They have not developed the instinct that their “seasoned” companions have.
6. To what level are the men reduced during an attack? They become “wild beasts”. What is the most important thing to them? Defending themselves against annihilation. They are greedy for life.
7. Describe the night the men spend listening to the wounded man cry out for help. Because there are so many dying men to bring in, sometimes it takes a while for them to get to all of the men. One man groans, and they cannot find him because he is probably “lying on his belly and unable to turn over.” With his mouth to the ground, it is nearly impossible to detect where his cry is coming from. Some of the men go out three times in the night to look for him, but every time they think they are close, the cry seems to be coming from a different direction. They are promised three days of leave on the second day if they find him, but they cannot. He cries for help and then slips into delirium, trying to have conversations with his wife and children. Finally he dies on the morning of the third day (seems like a reverse of the resurrection of Jesus).
8. How does Himmelstoss react in battle? He panics. He gets a small scratch and pretends to be more seriously wounded so that he might not have to leave the trench, but Paul comes to get him. He seems to be going crazy like a dog with rabies, crouching in the corner and nearly foaming at the mouth. Paul gets mad that the young recruits should be out there while Himmelstoss is cowering in a corner even as a Corporal. Paul makes him go out to the fighting. He is only “awakened” by the commands of a superior lieutenant to come with the rest to the front.
9. Describe the scene in the field after the battle is over. What do the men see? They see Haie Westhus with his lung nearly bulging out of his back and others with their skulls blown open. Still, others run around on stumps because both legs have been blown off but the shock keeps them running on the stumps.They see a lance-corporal dragging his shattered knee behind him and men without jaws or mouths or faces. Another man has his arm’s artery in his teeth to clamp it off so that he won’t bleed to death.
10. How many men did the company lose? They are down to thiry-two men.
1. How does Paul feel about the brunette he meets? He is giddy, somewhat afraid, and he feels comforted by her face and its gentleness. He feels that her presence may be able to help him momentarily escape from the horrors of the war. Are the feelings returned? No – She seems to show no emotion when Paul has to go on leave. She is not invested as he is.
2. What feelings does the picture of the girl in the white dress provoke in the men? They feel excited, happy, joyful, and want to be the man in the white trousers next to her to lure her by their charm. (Are they attracted to her “innocence” unmarred by war?)
3. How does Paul feel about being home? He feels that all of the questions and praises that he receives are empty of the knowledge of what it is really like on the war front. He cannot see life normally anymore. There is an unspoken barrier between his present self and the past of his youth.
4. What are his mother’s reactions to his visit? She has saved food for him to come home even though they are always low on rations at home. She doesn’t want to hear anything of the war except to be reassured that it is not as bad as some report. What are his father’s reactions? His father wants to hear the courageous stories of Paul’s experience and is always curious concerning them.
5. What has happened to Kantorek? He has been called up as a territorial. Mittlestaedt rules over him and pays him back for all of the degrading that Kantorek did to him in school.
6. Why is Paul repulsed by the conversation he has with his German master? Because he acts like he knows what is going on with the war, but only speaks the same foolish babble that Kantorek would rave about concerning the courageous duty and spirit of a soldier. He also speaks of strategy when he is not even out on the front and pushes Paul to be the one who plows forward.
7. Tell about Paul’s visit with Kemmerich’s mother. She weeps and cannot understand why her son had to die while Paul got to leave (Is it Chance as Paul suggests?). She wants to know how he died, and Paul lies to her saying that he got shot through the heart and died immediately. No suffering was involved. She does not believe him until he swears that he is willing to never come back himself if what he says is not true. Why does he persist in lying to her? On the one hand, he wants to preserve her the grief of believing that he suffered, but on the other hand, he cannot comprehend how one man’s life is so precious after having seen so many die. He is not convinced by her insistence upon swearing this or that to tell the truth because he does not hold anything sacred anymore and has discovered that the place can no longer be home to him. He has changed too much.
8. Why does Paul say he should never have had a leave? It is only a pause which makes everything after it so much worse. Out on the front he was able to block all emotion out to be hopeless yet indifferent. Coming home has caused him to face some of his feelings which will only make the war afterwards so much worse for him. At home, he realizes that he DOES have feelings for others, but out on the front if one tries to feel, it will only destroy him mentally and emotionally.
1. Why do the soldiers at the camp on the moor become so close to nature? Because they feel so alone. Being alone causes them to be quiet and observe and appreciate nature. Nature is safe companionship that cannot die. Even if “she” seems to die, it is only for a season.
2. Describe the Russian prisoners. “They look like meek, scolded, St. Bernard dogs.” They seem nervous and afraid and go about like beggars taking the scraps from the Germans’ garbage piles. Why does Paul feel sorry for them? Because he realizes their humanity. They look just like any of the other peasants in the farmland of Germany. Many of them have dysentery and are barely staying alive without the nutrition they need. They exchange far too much of their own possessions only to get one night’s meal. Paul believes that they are more brotherly and human towards each other than his own countrymen are towards one another. Paul realizes that it is only because he has been commanded so that these Russians are his enemies.
3. What is wrong with Paul’s mother? She is dying of cancer. Why is his father afraid to ask the surgeon how much her operation will cost? Because he knows that if he asks the doctor, the doctor will automatically assume that Paul’s father cannot afford it and thus, will not do the surgery, since he thinks he will not be getting paid. Though they have received some assistance in the past, they cannot anymore because “Mother” has been ill too long.
4. Why is it hard for Paul to spend time with his family? He knows that he cannot fix their problems which are very real, but he also feels so disconnected from them after being on the front.
1. How do the men prepare for the Kaiser’s visit? They are issued all new uniforms (to borrow), and there are so many drills and attention to perfection. Who is the Kaiser? He is the “All-Highest”, the emperor of Germany.
2. The men have a discussion about who starts war – What conclusions do they reach? That even if the Kaiser had said no to the war it would have happened because the government is more than one. They also conclude that the French believe that they are in the right just as much as they do. They decide that a war is started because the State (government) is offended by another country. Though they have been told that they are fighting for their fatherland, it is really for the political game that they are fighting, which they really have no vested interest in. They also speculate that the emperor may secretly want the war for a claim to fame in history books.
3. What type of damage do trench mortars cause? They can blow you right out of your clothes/in half.
4. What happens to Paul on scouting duty? He gets lost in the trenches and looses his sense of direction therefore ending up on the enemy line. How is he saved? After killing Duval, he runs for safety from trench to trench during the cover of night until he finds Kat and Albert. How does he feel about his comrades? They are nearer to him than lovers. They share the same fear and life.
5. Who is Gerard Duval? He is the enemy man that Paul stabs to death when he falls in the pit that Paul is hiding in when behind enemy lines. How is Paul affected by his death? He almost goes mad with the time that he slowly watches the man die – his thoughts and that “time” bring him closer to madness. Even after Gerard is dead, Paul drives himself crazy thinking about what his wife will be doing at that very moment and when she gets a letter from Gerard in a few months that he wrote before dying. Paul talks to the dead man about how he did not want to kill him but only did because he jumped into the trench nearly on top of Paul. He talks to him about how they were only enemies because of the uniforms that they wore. He asks Gerard for forgiveness. Paul vows to help his wife and children. He will write to them (or so he says until he reads their letters and is too stricken by guilt and pain). He vows to be a printer when he returns to civilian life as Gerard was and to live for Gerard and his family alone.
1. How does the troop manage to live well for a few days? They are supposed to guard a village that has been abandoned because it is being shelled to heavily. They find all sorts of leftover food including a dozen eggs, butter, potatoes, carrots, green peas, and some pigs. They cook everything up while still under fire and then escape to a basement shelter in the village where they have also moved a very nice bed to for sleeping.
2. What happens to Paul when he returns to the front? He has lost his dodging instincts and gets injured on the leg and arm. What happens to Albert? Albert gets hurt in the knee.
3. Why doesn’t Paul want to get into a clean bed on the troop train? Because he feels too dirty with his lice and filth from being on the front for so long. He believes that he will dirty the sheets beyond cleaning.
4. How does Paul manage to get off the train with Albert? By bribing the medical sergeant major with cigars.
5. How do the men get the nuns to stop praying over them at the crack of dawn? They throw whatever they can reach out into the hallway after Paul counts to five to try and give the nuns a chance at stopping their prayers before anything is thrown.
6. Why does Joseph Hammacher let the nuns know he has a shooting license? Because he knows that he can do whatever he wishes (like throw bottles at the nuns when the pray early in the morning), for he has the shooting license.
7. What is the Dying Room? Where the men who are about to die and who have no hope for recovery are taken so that they will be closer to the morgue to be more easily moved when the DO die. Who returns from the Dying Room? Peter
8. Why do the men try to discourage the two young solders from having the doctor operate on their flat feet? They say that the doctors only use the flat feet for medical experiments and most of the time end up crippling those they operate on in such a fashion.
9. Paul does a great deal of thinking while he is in the hospital. How does he feel about the war? That it makes the rest of the world and the expression therein pointless when such horror goes on. How does he feel about the young men his age who are involved in the war? That their knowledge of life is limited to death; all that they know is death and despair.
10. What favor do the men do for Lewandowski? They leave the room so that he can make love to his wife.
11. Why is it hard for Paul to leave the hospital? He doesn’t want to leave his friend, Albert Kropp even though Albert is no longer suicidal. But he is ok because he has gotten used to having to leave his loved ones.
1. What is the central action in this chapter? The German troops are being surrounded by the enemy on both sides. What happens to the German army? They are surrounded, starving, going mad, and suffering from dysentery. They are running out of ammunition and horses.
2. What happens to Muller, Bertinck, Leer, and Kat? Muller – he is shot point blank in the stomach; Bertinck – is wounded in the chest when he gets out of the hole to use his rifle to take down the flamethrowers. He shoots the one and then the other gets burned by the flamethrower without his partner to help control it. A fragment tears away his chin. Leer – His hip is torn open by the fragment, and he quickly bleeds to death; Kat – At the very last as the war is almost over, his shin gets smashed and bleeds profusely.
3. What is the only thing that helps these men endure their conditions? Knowing that there are no better possibilities.
4. What new weapons used by the Allies contribute to the collapse of the Western Front? Tanks, flamethrowers,
5. When Kat is wounded, what does Paul try to do for him? Get him a stretcher but needs to take Kat with him because the wound is bleeding fast. What is the outcome of this? Kat catches a splinter in the head as Paul carries him to the dressing station, and he dies. What is Paul’s mental state afterward? He is delirious and hopeless. He can barely stand, and his eyes nearly role back in his head.