Study Guide

All Quiet on the Western Front Chapter 5

By Erich Maria Remarque

Chapter 5

  • Paul details how they kill lice. Fun times.
  • Because it's warm outside, the men sit half naked and discuss Himmelstoss's return/appearance at the Front.
  • Tjaden notes that the whipping of Himmelstoss was "the high-water mark of his life" (5.5).
  • The men discuss what they would do if there were suddenly peace.
  • Sadly, they have a hard time fathoming the notion of peacetime and, even when they can, they can't give serious answers to what they would do.
  • The first set of answers are all pleasures of the flesh or gullet (sex or food).
  • And then Haie says that he would stay in the army – in a time of peace, the army is a reliable, decent job. And then there's the retirement pension.
  • Tjaden's goal is to cage and torture Himmelstoss.
  • Detering just wants to go back to his life as a farmer – but the discussion saddens him as he badly misses home and his horses.
  • Himmelstoss walks up to the men. They do nothing, so he asks, "Well?" (5.55).
  • Nobody salutes.
  • Himmelstoss is less volatile with the troops than he was at boot camp. The narrator notes, "He seems to have learned already that the front-line isn't a parade-ground" (5.56).
  • Tjaden tells Himmelstoss that he's a dirty hound.
  • They bark at each other a while, name-calling.
  • Himmelstoss tells Tjaden to stand up and salute; Tjaden refuses to obey, even after being threatened with a court-martial.
  • Himmelstoss stomps off.
  • Kat intones that the penalty will be at least five days' "close arrest" (jail).
  • Tjaden doesn't care – he escapes and hides from Himmelstoss.
  • The men continue their discussion of what they would do in a time of peace.
  • They collectively decide that they would no longer listen to their clueless Fatherland-ideal-loving former teacher Kantorek.
  • And they mock Kantorek's set of trivia questions they suffered through in school, noting how useless these are to the men in life and in the war.
  • Kropp notes how hard it will be to ever go back to all of the stuff they learned in school – "How can a man take all that stuff seriously when he's once been out here?" (5.108)
  • The men have a hard time figuring out anything creative to do when the war is over other than return to their old jobs or do nothing at all. The vibe is that hope is dying here.
  • Albert says, "The war has ruined us for everything" (5.120).
  • Himmelstoss accosts the men in the camp judicial area, asking for Tjaden.
  • The men tell him they don't know where Tjaden is.
  • Paul underscores how low they've stooped: "That is our sole ambition: to knock the conceit out of a postman" (5.132).
  • Tjaden disappears.
  • Himmelstoss returns and demands respect. Kropp asks him if he's ever fought at the Front before, suggesting that Himmelstoss's love of rules and hierarchy is pretty useless and silly in such a brutal war,
  • Kat thinks Kropp will get three days in jail for talking back to his superior, Himmelstoss.
  • That evening, this case comes up for trial. At the trial the men explain the character of Himmelstoss, detailing his abuses.
  • The magistrate asks the men why they didn't report Himmelstoss before, and they note the bad rep that tattle-tales have in the military.
  • The magistrate understands and gives Tjaden and Kropp very light sentences, even apologizing for having to give them any.
  • Himmelstoss is put in his place.
  • On the ride back "home," Kat and Paul find geese – Paul grabs one that puts up a tough fight.
  • A bulldog comes to the geese's rescue, but a chin choker prevents him from biting Paul.
  • Paul thinks about shooting the dog. He's afraid to move, but finally he has the energy to do so and zips out of there with a dead goose, ready for roasting.
  • Above, they can hear another air raid and bombs and guns.
  • They cook the goose together in the middle of the night. They have a bonding moment as they realize that they were total strangers not long ago.
  • They finish cooking the goose, eat, smoke, and then take a generous portion in a bag back to Tjaden, the biggest eater in the group.

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