At the end of the novel, we feel a sense of anti-climax with the death of
Paul, but in a way we are provided with an alternative ending for Paul. In a sense he is resurrected in Remarque’s novel, “The Road Back”, so if you want to have inkling as to the type of life Paul would have
had if he had survived, you should read this work.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” is a mix of documentary and memories
Remarque had of his own experiences at the Front Line.
There are no heroics. There is no strong political message. This is not an adventure. There are no clear winners – only death and the war itself. It is merely an honest account of what life was really like at the Front Line. Although there were desertions, there was no wide scale revolt despite the conditions. The only incident we have of desertion was through Detering. But he was homesick.
Remarque carefully captures the comradeship between Paul and the other
soldiers in his unit, but you will note that Remarque makes it clear that these bonds crumble when the threat of death and war is removed.
Looking back over these Chapters there are many memorable scenes, but I
would draw your attention to the scene where Paul and his colleagues come under fire in the military cemetery.
This provides grotesque gothic imagery, Remarque making the comment that the dead don’t stay buried for long. The only really adventurous scene is when the group comes under fire whilst cooking their meal. The challenge is to save their food and save them, and they are successful.
Perhaps the most moving scene involves the convoy of horses.
You will recall that Paul was moving to the Front Line to lay barbed wire. They encountered a column of men and horses. We read, “The backs of the horses shine in the moonlight and their movements are good to see – they toss their heads and their eyes flash. The guns and the wagons glide past against an indistinct background like a lunar landscape, while the steel helmeted cavalrymen look like knights in amour from a bygone age – somehow it is moving and beautiful.” Soon after, this beautiful scene is torn apart by a fierce bombardment. The same horses lay wounded and dying, giving up and unearthly cry. Paul makes the comment that the sound of dying horses is like the “moaning of the world ... a martyred creation full of terror and groaning.”
Arguably, this book has a greater effect on its reader than any other novel
on this subject.