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All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque-Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTER 8

Paul goes to his assignment, the training camp near his home town where Himmelstoss "educated" Tjaden. During days of drill, evening of poker and newspapers, he again notices the beauty of nature. At other times he guards Russian prisoners of war in the camp alongside. They are sick and feeble, hanging on to life by picking over the none-too-plentiful garbage from Paul's camp and trading their last few possessions for bread. He loves their courage and their music, and when he guards them he cannot understand why they must be enemies-just because, at some table, a document was signed. As he looks at them, he knows that any soldier would see an officer as more of an enemy; any schoolboy, a teacher as more of an enemy. But he dare not think that way too long, any more than he could tell his family what the front was really like. It's still his job to go back there and kill. But he stores away his thoughts for after the war. He can vaguely see that spreading the truth afterward may be the only good thing he can bring out of this war.

Recall Remarque's introductory note before Chapter 1- is Paul perhaps speaking here for Remarque himself? Could writing this book be a task Remarque set for himself when he fought in World War I? This is at least the second time Remarque has suggested, through his characters, that all men are the same- that only the leaders want war. Recall Kropp's theory for having the right people fight, in Chapter 3.


Paul's father and sister visit him the Sunday before he returns to the front, telling him that his mother is dying and they cannot afford the proper care. At least when it comes to his mother, Paul is not callous: he can't choke down the jam and potato cakes she has sent. He gives two cakes to the Russians and saves the others for his friends.

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