90 pages • 3 hours readErich Maria Remarque
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Chapter Summaries & Analyses
At the outset, and for a short duration, Paul suggests that he was an aspiring writer, mentioning a poetry collection that he was working on. It is hard for him now to imagine that this aspect of his life at one time actually existed. This anecdote demonstrates how the war eliminates the aspirations of the young fighting men.
Paul details how the preparation of the young men for war was conducted. Following orders and following routine are how the men are turned into fighting machines. He introduces Corporal Himmelstoss and recalls how each of the men in the company of recruits came to hate the man so much. Himmelstoss is a harsh disciplinarian, and though the men hate him, they are helpless against his command. Over the course of 10 weeks, he breaks them of their insubordination and of their will to object. Eventually, as the men have endured Himmelstoss’s cruelty, toward the end of their training, they succeed in defying him after Paul and Kropp spill a latrine bucket on him. Despite the hatred directed at Himmelstoss; Paul realizes that the man’s harshness actually prepared them for the brutality that they would experience at the front.