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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque-Barron's Booknotes
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All Quiet on the Western Front is, on the whole, a very serious and even a grim novel. Remarque presents his message through vivid description and imagery. The tone is not overwhelmingly bitter.

Two things stand out in Remarque's style: his vivid word pictures and the way he balances contrasting scenes against each other to make each one stand out.

His descriptions bring every chapter to life, whether he is showing us the glare of flares or the darkness beyond the trenches, vicious rats or itchy lice, the steady drumlike beat of bombardment or the piercing shrieks of shells and wounded. His descriptions also include images of beauty and peace- usually in Paul's thoughts-that make clear how awful the front actually is. He converts a pair of boots, a goose, and the circle of light cast by campfires into symbols of friendship. And he uses similes to show the brutality of war: the men fight like thugs, like wild beasts. The tanks push relentlessly forward like steel beasts squashing bugs.

1 Recollections:        Second Company,  
  school, Kantorek.     down to 80 men, 
                        well fed.   
2 Recollections: Kemmerich's death Himmelstoss, in a field hospital. basic training The boots.
3 Reminiscences: Kat's skill at Himmelstoss. foraging. Theories of war.
4 Barbed wire duty. The wounded horses The upturned graves.
5 Insubordination to Himmelstoss. Lack of post-war goals. The goose incident.
6 Days upon days of trench warfare. Company down to 32 men. Westhus wounded.
7 Paul home on The evening with leave. the French girls. Mittelstaedt's humiliation by Kantorek.

8 Paul guarding the Russian prisoners of war.
9 The Kaiser's visit. Paul's killing of Duval in the trench.

10 The hospital. The supply dump. Kropp left behind.
11 Starvation, lack of supplies, demoralization. Loss of Detering, Muller, Leer, Kat.
12 Paul's death on a quiet day.

Remarque's use of contrast, gives a new meaning to the phrase "theater of war." He keeps us moving between the trenches and the rest of the world. Even if Paul's hometown is suffering from war shortages, life there is safe and comfortable compared with the front. Even the hospital, filled with wounded, offers clean sheets and regular food-luxuries unimaginable at the front lines. These contrasts help us to understand what is happening to the emotional life of the young soldier.

The above chart will help you see more clearly how Remarque uses contrasts. The first part of All Quiet dwells on what happened at home, far from the front, and what it is like near the front. The middle chapters actually take us to the front and then pull us back several times-to civilian life, to a camp behind the lines, to a supply dump, to a hospital-so that we too feel the shock when we return, in the final chapters, to the unrelieved pressures of the front.

Finally, Remarque's style includes irony. We fully appreciate how little value is attached to a single human life by 1918 when we read the army report on the progress of the war on the day Paul dies: "All quiet on the Western Front."

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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque-Barron's Booknotes

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