All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front Dreams, Hopes, and Plans Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
He turns away. After a pause he says slowly: "I wanted to become a head-forester once." (2.31)
On the edge of death, having had his leg amputated, Franz Kemmerich divulges one of his greatest wishes. The fact that he tags the word "once" onto the end of the sentence makes us think that he's either given up on life or he's tossed aside his dream. The idea of forestry, of taking care of nature, forms a startling contrast to the destruction and violence of the surrounding war.
"Then you can look out from the window across the fields to the two trees on the horizon. It is the loveliest time of the year now, when the corn ripens; at evening the fields in the sunlight look like mother-of-pearl. And the lane of poplars by the Klosterbach, where we used to catch sticklebacks! You can build an aquarium again and keep fish in it, and you can go out without asking anyone, you can even play the piano if you want to." (2.41)
Paul tries to lure Kemmerich with visions of life beyond the war, all of which have something to do with nature. To us, there's something startling about the idea of an aquarium with fish in it, especially in the context of WWI. Perhaps it is simply that aquariums are so peaceful and contained, or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, with the exception of a river or two, there are no bodies of water in the world of this novel.
"By Jove yes," says Haie, his face melting, "then I'd grab some good buxom dame, some real kitchen wench with plenty to get hold of, you know, and jump straight into bed. Just you think, boys, a real feather-bed with a spring mattress; I wouldn't put trousers on again for a week." (5.26)
These men haven't been around women for months and months. Most are so young that they don't even have girlfriends or wives. Does Haie's dream seem strange to you?