Twentieth Century Literature

Week 5: All Quiet On The Western Front

1. Have a conversation with Paul Baumer. Respond to the italicised words printed above. Can you agree with him? Or do you think he is cynical and hypercritical.

They just talk too much. They have problems, goals, desires that I can’t see in the same way as they do. Sometimes I sit with one of them in the little garden of the pub and try to get the point across that this is everything – just sitting in the quiet. Of course they understand, they agree, they think the same way, but it’s only talk, only talk, that’s the point- they do feel it, but always only with half of their being, a part of them is always thinking of something else. They are so fragmented, no one feels it with his whole life; anyway, it is impossible for me to put what I mean into proper words. 

(p117, Chapter 7, Vintage Books, translated by Brian Murdoch)

Paul, I understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from. When you experience such things that are so life changing and completely different to the experiences of other people it is almost impossible to explain to them.

They may think the same and you say that they do feel it, but they can’t comprehend it much further than this as it is only with half of their being. A part of them will always be thinking about something else as they haven’t had these experiences that have shaped their lives the way yours has been.

They live their lives working at their jobs and going home to their families; living in their own little bubble. They aren’t spending every inch of their waking moments in a life or death situation and they don’t spend every second of every day unsure as to if it will be their last.

You can’t see things in the way they do because you have seen things in a different way. You have seen the reality of situations and have learnt to live a life differently to them and the way you used to. You are a changed man; you have further insight and knowledge to what they do, this is why you struggle to connect with them.

 

Image Source: Blu-Ray,. “Paul Baumer”. 2015, http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/All-Quiet-on-the-Western-Front-Blu-ray/129282/.

 

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