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All Quiet on the Western Front Notes

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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

1. SETTING

All Quiet On The Western Front is set during World War I, behind the German frontlines where Paul Baumer is assigned. The setting weaves back and forth between the warfront and the camp where Baumer stays. Once during the novel, Baumer goes home on leave, but the setting quickly reverts to the warfront. The only other setting in the novel is in the hospital.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Paul Baumer

The narrator of the novel. He is a young German infantry soldier who volunteered for military duty during World War I. During the book, he feels secure with his soldier friends, including Muller, Kropp, Kemmerich, and Kat. As he loses them one by one, he grows more depressed and disillusioned with the war. He is the last of the friends to survive, but then he is also killed one month before the armistice.

Kantorek

A teacher at the school that Baumer attended. He is a propagandist who glorifies war and the German cause. Since he is trusted by his students, he is directly responsible for Baumer and his friends enlisting in the infantry. Later his students resent his lies and blame him for the death of Behm, the first of the classmates to be killed in the war.

Stanislaus Katczinsky

1. A shrewd forty-year-old soldier who becomes Baumer's best friend. He is a friendly, good-natured, and resourceful man who always manages to find extra food and supplies and easy jobs for Baumer's group of friends. His death is a tremendous blow to Baumer.

Muller

1. A soldier who had been one of Baumer's classmates. Having been a good student, he misses school and often carries his books with him. Always logical and practical, he asks for Kemmerich's pair of leather boots when his leg is amputated.

Albert Kropp

Another of Baumer's classmates who joins the infantry. As a thinker and a planner, he believes that the generals from both sides of the war should be put into an arena together to fight it out amongst themselves. Kropp is the only classmate to survive the war. When his leg is amputated, he is discharged and sent home.

Tjaden

A thin wiry man who has a voracious appetite. He was a locksmith before joining the army.

Franz Kemmerich

A childhood friend of Baumer who also joins the infantry because of Kantorek. When he dies after his leg is amputated, his prized leather boots are passed around to and worn by his friends.

Minor Characters

Josef Behm

The first of Baumer's classmates to enlist in the army. He is also the first to be killed in the war.

Leer

Another of Baumer's classmates who joins the infantry because of Kantorek. Somewhat a rebel, he grows a beard and has relationships with women.

Corporal Himmelstoss

A drillmaster and a bully. He was a postman before joining the army.

Gerald Duval

The French soldier who lands in Baumer's shell hole. Baumer, filled with panic, stabs him and then, in remorse, bandages his wounds. After killing him, Baumer realizes that the enemy is just another frightened soldier, just like he is.

Haie Westhus

One of the soldiers in Baumer's infantry unit. After the war is over, he wants to stay in the peacetime army, preferring military to civilian life digging peat.

Detering

The soldier in Baumer's unit who is always dreaming of his farm and his family. In the spring, when he sees a blossoming cherry tree, he deserts the infantry to return home and plant his crops; he is quickly arrested and given a court martial.

Lieutenant Bertnick

The Company Commander who is respected by Baumer and his friends.

Ginger

The company cook who closely guards the food from the hungry soldiers.

CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

1. Chapter 1

Summary

The chapter begins with German soldiers at rest after fourteen days of fierce battle on the Western Front. A double ration of food has been prepared so the soldiers are eating their fill. Paul Baumer, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, watches in amazement as his friends, Tjaden and Muller, eat another helping; he wonders where Tjaden puts all the food, for he is as thin as a rail. Baumer is only nineteen years of age. He enlisted in the German infantry because Kantorek, his high school teacher, had glorified war and talked him into fighting for the fatherland. Kropp, Behm, and Leer, former classmates of Baumer, were also persuaded by Kantorek to join the infantry. They are all now fellow soldiers along with Tjaden, Westhus, Detering, and Katczinsky.

After a good night's rest, the soldiers are in line for breakfast. They are overjoyed that the cook has made food for one hundred and fifty men when there are only eighty of them; they again envision being able to eat all that they want. The cook, however, says that he can only distribute food for eighty; but the soldiers argue and overrule him. After breakfast, mail is distributed. Baumer and his friends stroll over to the meadow, located near the latrines. Baumer muses how embarrassed all of them were in the beginning to use the latrines that offered no privacy. Now all their modesty has vanished. Still, he believes that a "soldier is on friendlier terms than other men with his stomach and intestines. Three quarters of his vocabulary is derived from these regions."

Kantorek has written and sent a letter in which he calls his past students, now soldiers, "Iron Youth." Ironically, the young men, all of them around twenty years of age, are no longer youth; war has forced them to grow up beyond their young years. The old classmates talk about how they had idolized Kantorek while they were in school; now they hate him, blaming him for their misery. After all, he was the one who talked them into joining the military. They also blame

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