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Free Study Guide-All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
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Chapter 2

Summary

Baumer reminisces about his past life as a student, when he used to have time to write poetry. He realizes that his ten years of schooling have taught him less than ten weeks as a soldier. War has quickly taught him that only the fittest survive. Baumer also thinks about his parents, remembering the vague, but amiable, relationship he had with them. Because of the war, he feels like he now has nothing. His relationship with his parents has weakened further, and he has no time for girlfriends or fun. He feels totally isolated and empty.

Baumer thinks about Muller's callousness in asking for Kemmerich's boots when the man was close to death. He wants to believe that Muller was being logical rather than insensitive. Baumer also thinks about his drillmaster, Corporal Himmelstoss, and calls him a bully and a sadist; Baumer thinks the man derives great pleasure from mistreating the young recruits. Kropp, Muller, Kemmerich, and Baumer were all assigned to him because they were a tough, defiant lot, and Himmelstoss was capable of handling them. Although he can inflict punishment on them, the Corporal is never able to break their spirits.

It become obvious that Kemmerich is dying. He grieves over his unfulfilled dreams of being a head-forester. Baumer tries to comfort this man, who has been his friend since childhood. When Kemmerich is close to death, Baumer searches for a doctor to help him. The doctor refuses to come, saying he has already amputated five legs that day. When Baumer returns to Kemmerich's bed, the young soldier is already dead. Almost immediately he is removed from the bed to make way for those patients who are on the floor. Baumer suddenly realizes how precious life is.

Notes

The mood in this chapter grows more dark and gloomy as images of the wastage and desolation of war are given. Also the chapter more fully develops Baumer's character. It is obvious that he is a gentle, compassionate, and humane soul and intellectually superior to the rest of his friends. He is also a very honest person and tries to present everything as factually as possible.


Baumer again admits his misery in this chapter. Cut off from his parents, girlfriends, and fun, he feels totally empty and isolated. His only pleasure is the bond that he has with his soldier friends, and he tries to think the best of them. He justifies Muller's insensitivity as logical thinking and stays by Kemmerich's bedside as the young man approaches death.

This chapter also provides new insights on how most of the men in the war have become immune to sensitive feelings. This is seen in the case of the doctor who refuses to attend to Kemmerich because he is too tired after amputating five legs. It is also seen in the fact that only Baumer is by Kemmerich's side as he is dying. The chapter also reveals more of the horrible conditions that accompany a war. After Kemmerich is dead, he is quickly moved from his bed so some patient that is currently lying on the floor can be put in his place.

Kemmerich's death emotionally affects Baumer, and his emotions draw the reader closer to him. First, the death intensifies his thoughts about the wastefulness of war; a nineteen-year-old friend lies dead for no valid reason. It also makes Baumer hunger for life himself; he wants to fight to go on living. Finally, it makes him blame the entire world for the soldier's death. He thinks that everyone should be "forced to pass Kemmerich's death-bed to pay homage and to redeem themselves."

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