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(Remarque, All Quiet VII. 146)Again, Baumer notes the impossibility of making the experience of war meaningfulwithin a verbal context: the war is too big, the words describing it would have to be correspondingly immense and, with their symbolic size, might become uncontrollable and, hence, meaningless.While with his father, Baumer meets other men who are certain that they know howto fight and win the war. Ultimately, Baumer says of his father and of these menthat "they talk too much for me ... They underezd of course, they agree, they may even feel it so too, but only with words, only with words" (Remarque, All Quiet VII. 149). Baumer is driven away from the older men because he underezds that the words of his father's generation are meaningless in that they do not reflect the realities of the world and of the war as Baumer has come to underezdthem.Also during his leave, Baumer visits the mother of a fallen comrade, Kemmerich. As he did with his own mother, he lies, this time in an attempt to shield her from the details of her son's lingering death. Moreover, in this conversation, we see Baumer rejecting yet another one of the traditional society's foundations: religious orthodoxy. He assures Kemmerich's mother that her son "'died immediately. He felt absolutely nothing at all. His face was quite calm'"(Remarque, All Quiet VII. 160). Frau Kemmerich doesn't believe him, or, at least, chooses not to. She asks him to swear "by everything that is sacred to" him (that is, to God, as far as she is concerned) that what he says is true (Remarque, All Quiet VII. 160). He does so easily because he realizes that nothing is sacred to him. By perverting this oath, Baumer shows both his
unwillingness to communicate honestly with a member of the home front and his rejection of the God of that society. Thus, another break with an aspect of his pre-enlistment society is effected through Baumer's conscious misuse of language.During his leave, perhaps Baumer's most striking realization of the vacuity of words in his former society occurs when he is alone in his old room in his parents' house. After being unsuccessful in feeling a part of his old society byspeaking with his mother and his father and his father's friends, Baumer attempts to reaffiliate with his past by once again becoming a resident of the place. Here, among his mementos, the pictures and postcards on the wall, the familiar and comfortable brown leather sofa, Baumer waits for something that will allow him to feel a part of his pre-enlistment world. It is his old schoolbooks that symbolize that older, more contemplative, less military world and which Baumer hopes will bring him back to his younger innocent ways. I want that quiet rapture again. I want to feel the same powerful, nameless urgethat I used to feel when I turned to my books. The breath of desire that then arose from the colored backs of the books, shall fill me again, melt the heavy, dead lump of lead that lies somewhere in me and waken again the impatience of the future, the quick joy in the world of thought, it shall bring back again thelost eagerness of my youth. I sit and wait.