Study Guide

All Quiet on the Western Front Patriotism

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Let's put this out there right away: neither we nor the film are suggesting that there's anything wrong with patriotism. Supporting your country certainly isn't a bad thing and can be admirable.

But the film does demonstrate the dangers of a specific type of patriotism called "chauvinism." Chauvinism is patriotism on steroids while working out to the tunes of thrash metal, resulting in "zealous and aggressive patriotism or blind enthusiasm for military glory."

And in 1914, the world had a serious case of chauvinist roid rage. Kantorek serves as the go-to example here. His impassioned speech about serving the fatherland and the glory of war shows a national mentality that leads to the deaths of millions of young men.

Questions About Patriotism

  1. Whom do you see as the most chauvinistic character in the film? Why and how does his or her nationalism fit into this theme?
  2. Whom would you say is the least chauvinistic character in the film? Why? How does this character's stance on nationalism affect this theme?
  3. Do you see the film's stance on chauvinism as relevant in today's world? Why or why not?

Chew on This

The film shows the greatest danger of chauvinism to be its inability to change based on new facts and the reality of a given situation.

The film shows chauvinism as a type of virus, contaminating one person and then the other like the flu. This is most evident in the classroom scene. As Kantorek spews forth his infectious rhetoric, we see him infect the boys one at a time.

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