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SHORT PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)
All Quiet on the Western Front is about the German warfront during World War I. The traumatic tale of battle is narrated by Paul Baumer, a young soldier in the German infantry. He and his school friends have been urged to enlist in the fighting by Kantorek, their teacher, who glorified entering the war effort and saving the fatherland.
The story is set on the front lines where Baumer and his friends are fighting for survival. When the book opens, one of their mates, Josef Behm, has already been killed. Another of the group, Kemmerich, has had his leg amputated. He never fully recovers from the amputation and soon dies. His leather boots, which were envied by all, pass on to Muller.
As a result of the tragedies and deaths that they see all around them, Baumer and his friends are completely disillusioned by the war, even though they had all eagerly enlisted. Now they believe that war is a big waste and question whether there is a just cause for the fighting. They have also realized that it is the ordinary people, the little guys not the generals or captains, who actually fight the war and suffers the devastation. They fear for their own lives. One night during basic training, they took out their frustrations by beating up Corporal Himmelstoss, their drillmaster and a true bully.
Of all his soldier friends, Kat is the most resourceful. He is always trying to locate food, find easy jobs, and gather supplies for the group. Baumer thinks of him as his best friend; but even this closeness does not lessen the horror of the war. Baumer's troop is often bombarded, and Baumer constantly sees death and destruction all around him. He feels relieved in the fall when he and his friends are allowed to leave the front and take a rest in the rear. Baumer is even granted a leave to go home.
When Baumer goes home, he realizes he is a changed man. He feels totally lost when he puts on civilian clothes; he finds he has no interest in the things that previously entertained him. He cannot even relate to his family and resents that everybody in his small hometown acts as if the war were a game or a wonderful thing. He wishes that they understood the true horrors of fighting.
Baumer meets some girls from the enemy camp. He is shocked to realize that they are ordinary young people, with whom he can have a lot of fun. It is the first step in his realization that the enemy is no different than himself. Then one day, when he is alone in a shell hole trying to protect himself, he is joined by Gerald Duval, an enemy soldier. Baumer panics at his presence and stabs him. Regretting his own brutality, he tries to bandage and comfort the young French soldier. As Baumer looks at him, he realizes the wounded enemy is not a nameless face, but an ordinary, scared young person, just like he is. When Duval Dies, Baumer is saddened.
For a period of time, Baumer's troop has the assignment of guarding a supply depot. He and his friends help themselves to the food and supplies. Then Kropp and Baumer are wounded while evacuating a village. They are sent to the same hospital, where Baumer is horrified at the conditions. Baumer fully recovers from his wounds, but Kropp must have his leg amputated.
By the end of the book all of Baumer's soldier friends have died one after the other. Kat is the last one to be lost. When he is hit and killed by a sniper, it comes as a big blow to Baumer. Then one day in the fall of 1918, near the end of the war, Baumer himself dies on the Western Front.