All Quiet on the Western Front
Primitiveness Quotes Page 2
How we cite our quotes:
"That's the uniform," I suggest.
"Roughly speaking it is," says Kat, and prepares for a long speech; "but the root of the matter lies elsewhere. For instance, if you train a dog to eat potatoes and then afterwards put a piece of meat in front of him, he'll snap at it, it's his nature. And if you give a man a little bit of authority he behaves just the same way, he snaps at it too. The things are precisely the same. In himself man is essentially a beast, only he butters it over like a slice of bread with a little decorum. The army is based on that; one man must always have power over the other. The mischief is merely that each one has much too much power." (3.55)
Kat suggests it is part of human nature to yearn for power over humans and that war merely satiates this yearning. We can't help but think about Lord of the Flies by William Golding, for that novel explores this very idea of how exactly power corrupts and of how much humans love to have power over each other.
We wait and wait. By midday what I expected happens. One of the recruits has a fit. I have been watching him for a long time, grinding his teeth and opening and shutting his fists. These hunted, protruding eyes, we know them too well. During the last few hours he has had merely the appearance of calm. He had collapsed like a rotten tree. (6.50)
When Paul uses the word "hunted," we can't help but think that the soldier's primal instincts of survival have kicked in. War causes the most primitive of human feelings and emotions (the likes of which humans have contended with for millions of years) to surface.
He listens and for a moment his eye becomes clear. Then again he has the glowering eyes of a mad dog, he is silent, he shoves me aside. (6.54)
As the novel wears on, Paul begins to compare his fellow men to animals and to use animalistic imagery. This claustrophobic recruit can't stand being in the trench any longer. He begins to listen to reason, but his emotions get the better of him.