All Quiet on the Western Front
Baumer’s duality represents the duality of war and the psychological conflict that effects numerous soldiers who have experienced war. The duality of Baumer’s personality is meant to symbolize ( stand for) the divisions that are essential ingredients in all wars.
In war, individuals are called upon to sacrifice their lives and to kill people they do not even personally know in order to serve their nation. At the same time, the military and that nation reduce the average front line soldier’s existence to a sub-human level and endanger all the citizens of the nation by taking them into a war, the purposes of and motivation for which are never clear to the citizens and soldiers who are impacted. An example of the duality of war is when Baumer gets his leave and goes back home to visit his ailing other.
When he is back in his old neighborhood, the old men (who are too old to take part in active service) assure him that they do not begrudge him and his fellow front-line soldiers having the “best” food and clothing while those back at home have been nearly-starved and impoverished.
All of Germany’s money is going to the war effort; meanwhile, Baumer and his fellow soldiers have been eating horse-meat and rat-meat on the front lines.
Baumer’s own inner-conflict leads hi to take the potato cakes his dying mother has labored to send with him back to the front and give them to the Russian prisoners that are supposed to be his enemies. Baumer’s duality is represented quite fully in that single scene as the reader both sympathizes with him for feeling alienated from his old home and feels unsympathetic to Baumer giving away the potato cakes his sick mother labored to make for him.
Baumer’s ambivalence to his mother and family and his unexpected (and unpatriotic) gesture toward the Russians show how war has both humanized and dehumanized him simultaneously. Even though his experience at the front has taught him compassion for his enemies, he also become alienated from his country.
By choosing to show such deep-rooted dualities in his lead character, Remarque was able to explore the dualities of war itself. Baumer’s internal conflicts mirror the literal war and are brought to a crises because of the literal war.
2)Was Paul`s death at the end of the novel a blessing or a tragedy to Baumer himself? Could Paul have returned to society and enjoyed a gratifying life after the war? Take a stand and defend your opinion based on the incidents of the novel.
Baumer’s death is tragic. However, the reader is made completely aware that the world that Baumer formerly lived in: the Germany he went to war to fight for and protect, no longer existed and also Baumer himself no longer existed as he once had been.
The novel records Baumer’s mental and emotional breakdown in great detail and Remarque is careful to show the damage war has inflicted to every aspect of Baumer’s life including his family life, his professional life, his emotional and physical well-being, his country and way of life, his sex drive and his ability to distinguish friend from foe.
Remarque makes it clear that — had he survived the war — Baumer’s life would be in ruins just as his country would be in ruins and that the psychological damage experienced by Baumer from being on the front lines would impact his life forever.
On the other hand, Baumer’s death should probably not be considered a blessing because there is also hope for recovery even in defeat and mental distress. Baumer was shown to be smart, courageous, compassionate, and strong despite the constant struggle and hardships of his life on the front lines and the alienation he began to feel from his friends, family, and country.
To call Baumer’s death anything other than tragic would be to rob “All Quiet on the Western Front” of much of its power as an anti-war novel. The fact that Baumer endures the hardships and insanities described throughout the rising action of the novel are meant to show his fortitude and basic goodness.
It is supposed to be a great tragedy that he is killed and his death is supposed to stand for the death of every soldier killed in the Great War including those who were his enemies. It is the novel’s statement that every man that dies is special and should have lived to fulfill his life rather than wasting it on a battlefield fighting for a cause he may not have even understood.
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