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All Quiet On The Wesstern Front Essay

, Research Paper

Decline of Morality

The novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque shows that

war destroys more than just the physical level; the decline of morality has taken place

through various circumstances in the novel such as: then incident where Paul Baumer is

forced to kill a soldier in a shell hole, when Paul lies to his mother and the mother of his

dead friend Kemmerich and when Paul and Kat must beat a recruit unconscious to stop

him from leaving the trench; these incidents can be compared to events in the 1990’s such

as: rise in the abortion rate, Columbine High School shootings, and the incident between

President Clinton and Monica Lewinski.

In Chapter 7 Paul is granted a leave from his duties for about a month and in this

time he plans on going home and visiting his family. When he arrives his mother asks

him questions about how he is and about the war. More specifically she asks, “Was it

very bad out there, Paul?” He thinks to himself how that is a bad question and that

nobody realizes how bad the soldiers actually have so he is forced to lie. He says “No,

Mother, not so very. There are always a lot of us together so it isn’t so bad.” Here the

author proves that the war forces some to lie to their parents whom they have always been

honest with and this demonstrates the decline of family life that the war causes. Later in

the chapter he goes to visit the mother of his dead friend, Kemmerich. While there he tells

her that he died instantly and she doesn’t believe him, “You lie. I know better. I have felt

his anguish-tell the truth, I want to know it, I must know it.”(159) He again lies to her,

“No, I was beside him. He died at once” (159). But yet she tells him, “I know you want

to comfort me, but don’t you see, you torment me far more than if you told me the truth? I

cannot bear the uncertainty” (159). He sticks to his story telling her, “He died

immediately. He felt absolutely nothing at all. His face was quite calm” (160). Again this

incident shows that war has a major affect on family life, if he is able to lie to his mother

about the war easily, that makes it easier for him to lie to Mrs. Kemmerich about her son.

These incidents can be most closely related to the confrontation involving the President

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski. In this case President Clinton is preaching about how

family life is so important and how parents need to get involved and how a healthy family

can lead to productive lives. By saying things of this nature, President Clinton is a

hypocrite. Some of the things he does are almost the exact opposite of what he is

preaching. When he had an affair with Monica Lewinski he basically destroyed his family

because he cheated on his wife Hillary. This shows how the President himself can have

an affect on the decline of family life through his own family.

In Chapter 9 Paul is caught in a shell hole during a bombardment, while there a

Frenchman jumps into it, while attacking the German lines, and he is forced to kill him.

This does not settle easily with Paul mainly because he is horrified at his action. He says,

“This is the first time I have killed with my hands, whom I can see close at hand, whose

death is my doing” (193). This states that his part in the war has changed greatly because

now he can actually see the face of his enemy. While he is still upset Paul searches the

dead man for information so that he can find out the deceased’s name and family

situation. He finds out that the man’s name was George Duval, he had a family, and is

actually very much like Paul himself, then Paul begins to make promises to the Duval’s

body. He indicates that he will write to his family and goes as far as to promise him that

he, Paul, will take Duval’s place on earth: “I have killed the printer, Gerard Duval. I must

be a printer” (197). But most importantly, Paul renounces his status as a soldier by

apologizing to the corpse for killing him. “Comrade, I did not want to kill you … You

were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its

appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed … Forgive me, comrade. We

always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your

mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same

dying and the same agony—Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we

threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat …” (195).

As time passes, and he spends more time with the corpse of Duval in the shell hole, Paul

realizes that he will not fulfill the various promises he has made. He cannot write to

Duval’s family; it would be in appropriate to do so. Furthermore, he renounces his

brotherhood sentiments: “Today you, tomorrow me” (197). Soon, he admits, “I think no

more of the dead man, he is of no consequence to me now” (198). And later, to hedge his

bets in case there happens to be justice in the universe, Baumer states, “Now merely to

avert any ill-luck, I babble mechanically: ‘I will fulfill everything, fulfill everything I have

promised you—‘ but already I know that I shall not do so” (198). He realizes he only

cared because he spent so much time with the corpse; “It was only because I had to lie

there with him so long, after all, war is war.” This incident in the novel relates to the rise

in the abortion rate within the past few years. When two people decide that they want to

have sex they both jump right into it not thinking what could happen, , like Paul and

Duval. Then after they realize what has happened and the girl becomes pregnant most of

the time the guy will leave the girl on her own or convince her to have an abortion. Then

she realizes the only way to correct the situation is to take an innocent persons life, or in

this case an unborn baby. This is the same thing that Paul did, they both jumped into the

shell hole and they saw each other and Paul knew that he had to kill him cause if he didn’t

his life would be completely different. So he realizes this and he kills Duval believing

that he is or he did the right thing.

Awhile into chapter 6, they are in the trenches and one of the new recruits says

that he his going out for a minute and Paul tries to stop him and the recruit screams,

“Leave me alone, let me go out, I will go out!” (99) While he is yelling this Kat comes

over to help Paul in calming the recruit down and preventing him from leaving the trench.

But the recruit refuses to listen and he begins screaming at them, not making any sense at

all. Paul and Kat decide they must put an end to this and they know the only way they can

do it is to beat the recruit unconscious. Paul and Kat “do it quickly and mercilessly”

(100), they do this in order to save the recruit from escaping and getting shot. This event

can be mostly related to the shootings that took place at Columbine High School. In the

novel the recruit said things that he may not have necessarily said had he been thinking

straight. Then Paul and Kat thought that the only way they could stop this is with violence

and had they thought ahead instead of jumping right into it they may have thought of a

different way to stop him. In the Columbine incident some kids were seen as outsiders

and “uncool” so the “cool” kids decided that they had the right to make fun of them. They

tortured the so called outsiders to the point were they decided to get all the “cool” kids

back and they decided they wanted to go and shoot all of them at school. They too

believed that the only way to solve this problem was to resort to violence and had they

put more thought into what they were about to do then maybe the shootings may have

never taken place.

After comparing events from the novel with events from the 1990’s, it can be

obvious to see that All Quiet on the Western Front can be used in contrast to many types

of circumstances that have happened within the past few