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Reading “All Quiet on the Western Front”

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I have never been a fan of war stories. All the description of artillery, shelling, grenade, shrapnel, munition and trench confuse me. I have evaded reading All Quiet on the Western Front in high school because honors English didn’t have it on the reading list.

The book is intriguing for once, it’s written in the perspective of a young German soldier, who, out of patriotism and honor, gets drafted. But after experiencing the uncompromising brutality, Paul and his classmates realize that the ideals of nationalism, so professed by these men of authority who “continued to write and talk” away from the front line.

Clothes do not make the man. Most of the authority figures in the novel are painted as one form or another of idiots, sycophants, toadies, and other lower order life forms. Kantorek (the boys’ teacher back home) and Himmelstoss (postman-cum- reckless disciplinarian in army) are core figureheads in this arena. But they represent the many others who assume their form. This type of representation is one of the things that makes All Quiet on the Western Front such a great book—it is clearly everyman’s story of the war.

2 Responses

  1. I love this book. I read it a long time ago and recently listened to it again. It makes me sad that it is not mandatory reading for high schoolers because it has an amazing message about war and blindly following orders. Plus, it drives home the absolute horror of the trench warfare of World War I, a historical event we tend to ignore here in the US in favor of World War II – in my opinion at least.

  2. It’s one of my favorite novels!!!

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