All Quiet On The Western Front: Betrayal Is The Gateway To Understanding

1351 words - 6 pages

All Quiet on the Western Front is the retelling of World War One through the eyes of twenty years old, Paul Baumer, a character created by a war veteran himself, Erich Maria Remarque. In this greatest war novel of all time, Remarque displays the emotions that a soldier from the lost generation would have felt. Among one of those emotions was betrayal. Betrayal is very important in understanding this novel, because it gives some answers to why this young generation of soldiers, becomes so lost, and distant. This lost generation could no longer trust that everything their government, parents, or teachers did for them was the right thing; they learned that from so much betrayal.
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“’What do you mean by the three-fold theme in ‘William Tell’?’ says Kropp reminiscently, and roars with laughter.” (Remarque 84) This mocking is actually the young soldiers feeling betrayed, because nothing that was taught to them in school would come in handy out on the frontier. One of Paul’s comrades, Paul Leer was a great mathematician, but that was not use to him while he was dying. Their parents and teachers betrayed them by not preparing them properly to go to war, yet still expecting them to go out and fight for their country. Their parents and teachers once again were feeding them to the lions; when they were suppose to protect them. The older generation’s words eventually persuaded almost all of Paul’s generation, into joining the war, if not with their talk of nationalism, and loyalty, then with their accusations of being cowards if they did not go. Paul’s old teacher Kantorek for example, would give the students long lectures about joining, until every single one of them volunteered. Even those who did not want to volunteer, volunteered, like Joseph Behm, who because of his early death in the war, causes Paul and his comrades to resent all of Kantorek’s patriotic duty, and Iron Youth talk. While the younger generation was out fighting the war, risking their life every second, their parents and teachers were not. Instead of fighting, they were recruiting even more young soldiers, persuading them with their eloquence and misleading words. Paul witnessed their actions. He saw the new recruits, who were not at all prepared, go fight because someone, somewhere, had talked them too into joining, and they too would soon feel betrayed by them.
Paul, and many other soldiers, whether they were young or old, all shared a common betrayer, German leaders. In chapter nine, after the visit of the Kaiser, Paul and his comrades started to ask themselves how war is beneficial to anyone. They concluded that war is only beneficial for those who want to end up in history books. The reason is that generals, emperors, and kings become famous through war. “’He (the Kaiser) has not had a war up till now. And every full grown emperor requires at least one war, otherwise he would not become famous.’” (Remarque 206) Kat believes that the Kaiser has some personal interest in fighting the war, and not just to protect Germany. This is an example of the German leaders betraying the soldiers. A country is usually associated as a father figure, and just like a father figure, the leaders of that country are supposed to have the peoples best interest at heart, but when the leaders have their own best interest in mind, and lie about it being of the citizens, they are not being honest to the soldiers who choose to fight for the country, therefore betraying them. Paul...

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