All Quiet on the Western Front
Sacrifice Quotes Page 2
How we cite our quotes:
When my mother says to me "dear boy," it means much more than when another uses it. I know well enough that the jar of whortleberries is the only one they have had for months, and that she has kept it for me; and the somewhat stale cakes that she gives me too. She has taken a favourable opportunity of getting a few and has put them all by for me. (7.126)
This is the only moment in which we get a taste of a kind of sacrifice different from that of soldiers giving up their lives for their country. Paul's mother's sacrifice is born out of love for him, and she sacrifices her rations, her family's own food, for the sake of her son. This kind of love stands out like a neon light in the harsh and violent context of war.
[Paul's German master:] "Naturally it's worse here. Naturally. The best for our soldiers every time, that goes without saying." (7.163)
We'd like to throttle Paul's German master. We weren't expecting to find such a skewed vision of the war (as reflected in his quote here) in Paul's hometown. Everyone seems to have a different idea of what the war is like and of who is sacrificing what. We suppose that everyone, all across the board, had to give up something for the sake of the war, but (from our humble, reader's perspective) no one seems to endure as much as the soldiers. Where would civilians have gotten their information about the war during this time?
Ah! Mother! I know what these underpants have cost you in waiting, and walking, and begging! Ah! Mother, mother! how can it be that I must part from you? Who else is there that has any claim on me but you? Here I sit and there you are lying, and we have much to say, that we could never say it. (7.277)
When Paul says, "Who else is there that has any claim on me but you," we think he is referring to the powers that be in the German government who compel him to fight for his country. After all that his mother has done and sacrificed in order to raise him and keep him strong, Paul faces the likely possibility of having his life taken from him in the war. This fact makes all of his mother's sacrifices even more monumental.