Author: Erich Maria Remarque
Year of Publication: 1928 Setting and time period: The setting of the novel is almost entirely in the battlefields of the 1st World War (1917-18) To Paul and his friends; it feels like there’s nothing else BUT the battlefield. When they are not on the front lines, the soldiers are at the camps. The camps prove to be a place of relaxation, where the soldiers can get away from the non-stop trench life. The trench life is very poor and abysmal, as soldiers can stay there for days and have to endure the horrors of war. When Paul leaves the war shortly to visit his home and family, he finds it to be like heaven. This is pretty obvious, considering the fact that he has spent most of his recent life on the battlefield and is used to the horrific life of war.
Primary characters (name/relationships/jobs/key traits):
Paul: Paul is the narrator and main character of this novel. He is very sensitive to war, and realizes the impact it has had on his life. He considers himself “lost” because of the fact that he went to war at such an early age. His role as narrator allows the reader to understand his personal life as Paul shares with his audience many personal stories. It also gives us insight on how a typical young soldier was feeling during the First World War.
Kantorek: Although Kantorek is not a character that shows up during the novel, his impact on the story is quite profound. Kantorek was a school teacher at the school that Paul and some of his friends attended. He had intense nationalism and influenced his students on their decision to join the war. He filled his students’ heads with lies about the war. Paul always looks back on Kantorek’s actions and despises him for brainwashing young men.
Himmelstoss: Himmelstoss is the camp disciplinarian to the soldiers. He is a loathsome character, as he treats the soldiers unfairly and uses feared tactics to get what he wants. With the character of Himmelstoss, Remarque wanted to show how those that had power during the war took advantage of their authority and used it for their own gains.
Secondary characters (brief identifications):
Katczinsky – an old man that’s best friends with Paul. He has a family back at home. He is also a resourceful man, as he can find food and shelter anywhere.
Kropp – a close friend of Paul with who he went to school with. Kropp is very intelligent and good at analyzing situations.
Muller – another old school friend of Paul. He is a practical young man who always wonders what he will do after the war.
Tjaden – a man who loves to eat. Sometimes pees his bed. He hates Corporal Himmelstoss.
Point of view and other notable structural, literary and stylistic techniques:
The story is told through a first person point of view. The reader has complete understanding of the narrator’s thoughts and actions. Paul narrates the story through many events, events which at the end have some type of value and have somehow affected Paul in a profound way. Each event is something that Paul remembers thoroughly. Since Paul reveals so much about himself through his narrations, the reader can connect to his feelings and understand his pain.
Major conflicts (in abstract terms with resolutions):
The major conflict that Paul and his friends have unwittingly entered a hellish war in which hope for survival is sullied by the knowledge that they have already been mentally scarred beyond recovery. They have lost their adolescence and are in risk of losing something worse: their life.
Key Scenes (turning points, resolutions, climaxes):
I think the turning point is when Paul's good friend and fellow soldier, Kemmerich, dies a slow death. Paul then begins to see what the war will entail and what will soon happen to the rest of his friends. I think that this is also the climax. The resolution of this novel is when Paul dies. Paul's death is