All Quiet on the Western Front
How we cite our quotes:
A terrible feeling of foreignness suddenly rises up in me. I cannot find my way back, I am shut out though I entreat earnestly and put forth all my strength.
Nothing stirs; listless and wretched, like a condemned man, I sit there and the past withdraws itself. And at the same time I fear to importune it too much, because I do not know what might happen then. I am a soldier, I must cling to that. (7.188)
Is it that the past withdraws itself from Paul or is it that Paul is withdrawing from the past? We get the sense that Paul feels full of guilt at this moment – why does he liken himself to a "condemned man?" The soldierly identity that he must cling to seems quite general when compared with the vivid world of his childhood room.
When we went to the District Commandant to enlist, we were a class of twenty young men, many of whom proudly shaved for the first time before going to the barracks. We had no definite plans for our future. Our thoughts for a career and occupation were as yet of too unpractical a character to furnish any scheme of life. We were still crammed with vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also, an ideal and almost romantic character. (2.4)
Are there any moments in this novel in which war has "an ideal and almost romantic character"?
With our young, awakened eyes we saw that the classical conception of the Fatherland held by our teachers resolved itself here into a renunciation of personality such as one would not ask of the meanest servant. (2.5)
Some feel that the characters in All Quiet on the Western Front lack depth. Do you agree? Perhaps the characters seem flat because Remarque wants to show us just what it means for a soldier to give up his "personality." When do we really get to know characters in this novel?