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Free Study Guide-All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
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Chapter 7

Summary

Because Baumer's unit has suffered such great losses, the remaining soldiers are taken to a field depot for a period of rest. For a short while, the terrors of the war are forgotten, but Baumer knows that the memories of the battlefield mayhem will come back to haunt him.

Baumer and his friends see a poster of a pretty girl, which reminds them there is more to life than war. They decide they need to entertain themselves. When they go out for a swim, they make friends with three French girls, who are the enemy. They plan a rendezvous with the girls, and Tjaden promises to provide some food. The gathering is a lot of fun and a wonderful respite from the horrors of fighting; it also makes Baumer realize that the Allieds are not just faceless people. The enemy women are just ordinary humans, like he and his friends. His friendship with them continues until he is granted a leave.

When Baumer is given seventeen days off, he chooses to go home. Travelling by train, he sees lovely meadows, scenic farms, and happy children along the way; it is a stark contrast to the pictures of war given in the last chapter. When he arrives at his own house, Baumer's sister sobs with joy on seeing him, and his parents are proud to have him back. Baumer, however, is a changed man because of his war experience; he cannot relate to his family. His earlier pastimes no longer hold his interest, and he is bitter about the light-hearted attitude of his small hometown about the war.

During his stay at home, Baumer visits Kemmerich's mother; with gentleness and sensitivity, he lies and tells her that her son's death was instantaneous. Baumer also learns that Kantorek, his former teacher, is fighting in the war as an ordinary soldier; ironically, he was assigned to the company of one of his former students, Commander Mittelstaedt. The commander takes pleasure in tormenting and taunting his former teacher; for revenge, he makes Kantorek do many menial tasks.


At the end of his leave, Baumer concludes that his time off and away from the war has made matters worse for him. He is now worried about his dying mother, saddened over the realization that he has lost his youth, and concerned over the fact that he longer fits within the family or his small hometown. When he first arrived at home, he felt he was simply indifferent to life; now he feels miserable.

Notes

Like Chapters 1, 3, and 5, this one again gives a picture of life away from the battlefield and serves as a bridge between two very negative chapters. The description of calm domestic life in a small German town is a stark and intentional contrast to the horrors of war described in the previous chapter.

Baumer finds that he no longer fits into his family or his small hometown. He worries about his aging mother, who is dying of cancer, and laments over the fact that he has lost his own youth to the war. He grows bitter when he hears both children and adults, who are oblivious to the horrors of fighting, speak of war as if it were a game. He is also saddened to realize that his old interests no longer have any appeal to him, making him feel more lost and isolated than ever. Baumer thinks that coming home may have been a mistake.

Baumer's sensitive side is seen several times in the chapter. When he meets and enjoys the French girls, he suddenly realizes that the enemy is not just a faceless being; he is amazed to learn that the enemy can be a young person, just like himself, who is eager to live and enjoy life. Again his compassion and character is depicted as he lies to Kemmerich's mother; he spares her from the details of her son's death, telling her that the young soldier died instantaneously without pain.

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