All Quiet on the Western Front
Uploaded by Admin on Apr 08, 1999
Paul Bäumer, the narrator and protagonist in All Quiet on the Western Front, is a character who develops extensively within the course of the novel. As a young man, he is persuaded to join the German Army during World War I. This three year ordeal is marked by Paul's short, but tragic trek into adulthood as he learns to cope with the trials and tribulations of war. In the wake of a struggle which claims millions, Paul loses his precious innocence as he is further isolated from society and engulfed by bloodshed. Paul's evolution throughout the novel is a result of his having to adapt in order to survive.
Paul's experiences in combat shatter his former misconceptions of war; consequently, he gains the ability to reflect on events with his own accord. His naive ideas are severely challenged when he first witnesses the ugly truth of war. "The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces"(13). Paul's first engagement in combat reveals that everything he was taught as a young recruit are lies; consequently, he can now form his own conclusions. Through the ongoing course of the war, Paul comes to grips with the reality of the situation. "They are strong and our desire is strong-but they are unattainable, and we know it"(121). Paul realizes that the soldiers former lives are all but distant memories. His maturing personality gives him the insight to see past the facade of war and expose it for what it truly is.
Paul loses his innocence and childhood during the war; as a result, he becomes a man. When Paul and his companions encounter some French women, they exchange food for sexual intercourse. "We unwrap our parcels and hand them over to the women. Their eyes shine, it is obvious they are hungry"(148). Through this transaction, Paul uses the women as an outlet for his sexual urges. Shortly after this rendezvous, Paul receives a leave of absence; however, he finds it difficult to leave the war behind. "Speak to me - take me up - take me, Life of my Youth - you who are care-free, beautiful - receive me again - "(172). Paul can no longer conjure up the feelings of happiness which accompanied his youth, in essence his childhood is lost. The war has stripped Paul of his innocence and...