All Quiet on the Western Front
How we cite our quotes:
Because he could not see, and was mad with pain, he failed to keep under cover, and so was shot down before anyone could go and fetch him. (1.60)
Why is it significant that Joseph Behm (the class clown and rabble-rouser who almost didn't follow the trend and join the army) is among the first to fall?
My thoughts become confused. This atmosphere of carbolic and gangrene clogs the lungs, it is a thick gruel, it suffocates. (2.37)
War attacks all of the senses; it's in the air the soldiers breathe, in the sounds of suffering they hear, in the rough dirt and splinters they feel in the trenches. So much of the novel has to do with sensory experiences – both the good and the bad. Here, Paul is visiting a hospital, and the smell of it overwhelms him. However, much later on, he and his comrades enjoy delicious roasted pig and freshly brewed coffee. Paul descriptions hinge on moments in which the senses are stirred.
Hospital-orderlies go to and fro with bottles and pails. One of them comes up, casts a glance at Kemmerich and goes away again. You can see he is waiting, apparently he wants the bed. (2.40)
We don't know about you, but the doctors and hospital attendants in this novel don't seem all that nice and friendly to us. This moment makes us realize just how easy it might be to feel like less of a human during this war. Even when a man is far from the trenches, even when he is on death's door, he is still treated more as a number than as a human.