Study Guide

All Quiet on the Western Front Chapter 10

By Erich Maria Remarque

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Chapter 10

  • Paul believes he has been given a good job – guarding a supply dump that is not yet empty. They are given a green light to eat from the supply tent and barter whatever is in it.
  • Kat, Albert, Müller, Tjaden, and Detering are all there.
  • They choose a concrete cellar to live in – it's well protected with concrete walls, floor beds, and furnishings.
  • Using their supply stores, they begin a mini industry of trade, eating, and sleeping.
  • Almost magically, they find two baby suckling pigs – they capture and kill them and make a hodgepodge, sumptuous meal for all of them.
  • Even guests come to the celebration, where they have uncovered a piano.
  • The party stops suddenly when they realize that the enemy balloons have spotted smoke from their chimney and shelling begins, bombs suddenly dropping closer and closer to them.
  • The roast is finally cooked when the bombs reach their grounds and begin to hit the building. The Saxon guests have stopped singing at the piano and the party has suddenly sobered up.
  • The group realizes that they must escape the building, but not before Kat takes the suckling pigs with him; Paul grabs the other foodstuffs.
  • They hide out back in their concrete cellar and take five hours to eat the full meal, throwing pig bones out the door.
  • Unfortunately, the baby pig was not cooked deep enough and the men feel a war brewing inside their stomachs.
  • The shells have all but destroyed the supply depot. For almost three weeks, the men loaf around, eat, smoke, and play. Paul reflects that "the town gradually vanishes under the shells and we lead a charmed life" (10.21).
  • A week later, they are given orders to go back to the Front.
  • As they travel in the Front direction, they are sent to evacuate a village where children clinging to their mother's hands silently pass. The village is silent until it is evacuated.
  • The narrator notes that the French do not fire on villages occupied by civilians – but as soon as the evacuation is done, the village is shelled heavily and brought to ruin.
  • In the rain of those shells, suddenly Albert cries out – he has been shot in the knee and falls in a ditch.
  • Paul helps drag him away, fighting Albert's wishes to lie down and try and recover in the shell hole. They bind each other's wounds – Paul was injured a bit, presumably by shrapnel, and he is bleeding.
  • They crawl to a passing ambulance, take a tetanus needle from a lieutenant, load up, and hope for a ticket home.
  • Darkly, Albert says that if they have to amputate his leg, he will commit suicide; he won't go through life a cripple.
  • That night, they are taken to surgery (which Paul calls "the chopping block"). Paul has no trust in the surgeons and is determined not to receive chloroform (to knock him out so he doesn't feel the pain), even if he has to "crack their skulls."
  • The surgeon pokes in and around Paul's wounds and he feels himself wincing in pain, maybe blacking out. He moves, forcing the orderlies to hold his arms down. The surgeon finally announces that Paul will have to have chloroform.
  • At that moment, Paul stops moving and promises to keep still, that the cackling doctor will not have to chloroform him. Paul swears that he will die before the surgeon will do such a thing.
  • Paul squeezes hard on the grips until the surgeon finds and removes the shrapnel and throws it in a bucket, puts in him a plaster cast, and tells him he will be heading home.
  • Paul bribes a guard with two cigars and the commitment is made to get Paul on the same train as Albert, heading back to home base in the morning.
  • The men regret not being able to bring the red leather chairs and other booty they found in the supply store they were guarding.
  • They are weak from the surgery, but on the train back to the hospital they find "snow white linen" for their bedding. The men are still muddy from the battlefield, though their nurse (who is a nun) tells them not to worry about it – they will wash the sheets after. The train to home base begins to move.
  • At night, Paul cannot sleep – he needs to pee. He clambers out of bed – the top bunk – and crashes to the floor. A sister comes in and Albert tells her that Paul needs to go to the bathroom.
  • Hugely embarrassed, Paul is given a bottle and, in a day or two, along with everyone else in the cabin, he is used to the process of relieving himself this way.
  • The train travels slowly and the dead are unloaded at each stop.
  • Paul wants to stick with Albert and knows he will be let off in Cologne – Paul needs to look sicker than he is. Suddenly Paul fakes pain and the nun takes his temperature. He squeezes the mercury to 101.6 and gets to remain with Albert.
  • At Catholic Hospital, they are in a large room together. The sisters are praying loudly and this prayer keeps waking up the men.
  • They ask multiple times for them to close the door or pray more quietly. One sister says that prayer "is better than sleep" but the men aren't buying it. Finally Paul throws a bottle out the door toward the prayers (symbolism!) and it bursts into a thousand pieces.
  • The prayer stops and an inspector angrily asks who threw the bottle. Josef Hamacher speaks up before Paul can say anything and takes the blame for the bottle. Paul is shocked when the inspector just nods and departs.
  • Josef explains that he has a shooting license – presumably he's a valuable sharpshooter – and so he is "untouchable." In Josef's midst, Paul realizes that he "can risk anything."
  • Eight men sit in a room recovering with Paul. One man is in very bad pain and calls out. Paul finally must ring the bell for a night nurse/sister who does not come. They ring again and nothing happens. The man's bandage is wet, the room is dark, and the men helpless as they wonder if the sister has fallen asleep.
  • Josef asks if they should perhaps smash another bottle, but finally the door opens and she is surprised to see the man in such pain. She binds him quickly and, as the man now looks close to death, the sister attends often.
  • The sisters attend sporadically as Paul recovers. He notes that the man in pain is taken away, ashen, to The Dead Room where nobody seems to return from.
  • Josef explains that The Dead or Dying Room is conveniently placed next to the morgue.
  • The moved man's bed is re-occupied by another visitor who, himself, is taken away to the Dying Room a few days later. And then another.
  • Another man, Peter, has a fever that spikes and they roll him toward the Dying Room. When he realizes where he is headed he tries to jump off the trolley. Feebly, he is pushed back down and they explain that they are just taking him to the bandaging ward.
  • He swears to the other men in the room that he shall return…
  • Josef intones that, "Many a man has said that. Once a man is in there, he never comes through" (10.196).
  • Paul vomits two days after his operation. His bones are broken badly and won't grow together.
  • Two new soldiers arrive – they have "flat feet" and the sadistic surgeon looks forward to operating on them. Josef explains that they are science experiments for the surgeon that those operated on end up with club feet.
  • Josef details the damage the surgeons have done and encourages the new arrivals to fight any effort of the surgeons to "fix their flat feet."
  • Two young fellows are lectured by the surgeon long enough so that they give in. They accept the "club foot surgery" out of personal weakness against being able to just say no. They return with bandaged feet, asleep.
  • Albert is in bad shape after his leg is amputated. He swears suicide the first chance he gets.
  • Two blind men are brought into the room; one of them also tries to kill himself as fast as he can, so aggressively that the sisters won't feed him with a knife anywhere nearby.
  • The Death Room is filling up with more dying wounded.
  • Shockingly, one day the door flies open and a healthy Peter returns to Paul's room – seemingly recovered, a survivor of the Dead Room. Even Josef admits this is the first time he'd seen this happen.
  • Gradually, a few men begin to stand. Paul gets crutches and walks down rows, seeing spine and head wounds, double amputations, jaw wounds, gas cases, nose, ear, and neck wounds, wounds in joints, testicles, intestines. He notes that, "Here a man realizes for the first time in how many places a man can get hit" (10.209).
  • Tetanus and other infections take lives.
  • The shattered bodies pile up. Paul waxes philosophically about how little he knows or feels beyond killing and being killed.
  • After a few weeks of recovery, Paul attends physical therapy for his arm and leg.
  • Albert's amputated stump has healed well but he is silent, dark.
  • Paul gets convalescent leave.
  • His mother is much worse than when he saw her last time.
  • Paul is sent to the base and then back to the Front – again.

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