When Paul, the main character in the novel, volunteers himself to go on a scouting mission to determine the position of the enemy, he finds himself being bombarded by exploding artillery shells and desperately jumps into a shell hole. Paul is terrified as another shell splinters the very earth that protects his young and vulnerable life. He is beside himself with fear, and he comes to the point where he loses the will to live. Paul is ready to rationalize his one life away, having lost complete connection with his humanity. Like the pounding of a heart, Paul hears the footsteps of his comrades, and their muffled voices begin to defibrillate Paul’s hopes and sprits. The will to live slowly, but surely, begins to flow through his veins. Not with their strength, but with their words, Paul’s comrades pull him back from the depths of despair.
As I read the description of Paul’s inner struggle to hang on, I felt as if I was with him in the hole, fearing for his life. On a personal level, I can relate to the impact of comrade’s support in a time of struggle. A few weeks ago, after spending three hours struggling with some difficult science concepts and getting nowhere but more confused and stressed, a good friend and classmate patiently Face Timed with me. At the time, I was in my own world of despair and feeling hopeless about receiving a passing grade. The reassuring words of my friend and his simple and clear explanations pulled me back into reality and gave me the will to fight.
All Quiet on the Western Front is an expertly crafted novel that depicts the horrors of modern war and the connections that soldiers share that gives them the will to get through each day.