CHARACTERISATION OF PAUL B'UMER
As we have said before, Paul is Remarque’s mouthpiece in “All Quiet on the
Western Front”. He is the novel’s narrator and protagonist, and to understand Paul, is to understand Remarque and his views concerning the Great War and wars in general.
We are provided with details concerning Paul’s group before they became
soldiers, and although they come from different backgrounds, they are slowly molded into the same type of despairing soldier.
Paul quickly learns that in order to preserve his sanity, he has to
disconnect his mind from his feelings. To maintain sharpness, he must keep his emotions subdued.
Remarque is clear in applying Paul’s experience to millions of others on
both sides of no man’s land. He tells us that the frustration shared by the men stems from the fact that no progress is made and that because of their actions, they are indirectly destroying their world back
home, which they initially volunteered to protect. When Paul goes back to his home town he has to lie to his family because they would be unable to accept the truth.
After all, collectively they had urged Paul and his contemporaries to volunteer for this honorable cause. Both sides had entered into the conflict under the misapprehension that the battle would be over within months.
Nowadays we know that a problem shared is a problem halved, but Paul and the
other soldiers have nobody with whom they can share the experience. When the book was published, Remarque in a way was sharing his experiences with the general public, and it was widely acclaimed and accepted,
but in the eyes of the authorities, i.e. the Nazi regime, Remarque’s views were in complete contradiction to their warlike aims, and the book was declared as defeatist and unpatriotic, and was burned.
We witness Paul’s death and note that he is glad that his ordeal has come to
an end. He has a look of contentment and calm on his face. We note that Paul feels that his continual survival is a curse, and the longer he lives and endures the less likely he will be able to lead a
full and meaningful life back home.