All Quiet on the Western Front | Study Guide

Erich Maria Remarque

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All Quiet on the Western Front | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

As autumn begins, Paul Bäumer notes that he is the last of the seven from his class left alive. There are rumors of a truce and an end to the war. Paul believes that if this doesn't happen soon, the soldiers will revolt.

Paul is given 14 rest days. He contemplates the fact that there was a point at which, if they had returned home earlier, he and his comrades could have created some kind of change in the world. But now he believes the surviving soldiers are "weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope. We will not be able to find our way any more." He still believes that no one will understand what they have been through. The war will be forgotten by those who didn't fight in it, and those who did have been ruined by it. Paul thinks that nothing more can be taken from him because he has already given all he has.

A new narrator takes Paul's place and informs the reader that Paul is killed in October of 1918, on a quiet and still day. His face looks peaceful, "as though [he is] almost glad that the end had come."

Analysis

Paul Bäumer sees that the soldiers are finally at their breaking point, and will likely revolt if conditions don't change soon. Now that his friends are gone, it begins to dawn on him how little meaning his life has without them to buoy his spirits. He seems to understand how frozen the veterans of World War I will be after the war ends because they won't be able to move on or be understood by nonveterans.

A third-person narrator narrates the last lines of the novel after Paul has died. The narrator attaches no emotions to the outcome of Paul's death, and merely reports it in an impartial way. The narrator tells nothing of how Paul died or who he was. He is treated as just another casualty of the war, his life destroyed in the blink of an eye. Paul's death is an example of situational irony in which there is a startling difference between what actually happens and what is expected to happen. Paul dies on a quiet, peaceful day on the front, a surprise given how many times he has narrowly escaped death during combat in the past. It is also a cruel twist of fate that his death occurs only a month before the war is over.

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