You are on page 1of 5

Fiona Liu Mr.

Baldwin Betrayal in ³All Quiet on the Western Front´

E5X-03 2/26/2012

Betrayal is the willful slaughter of hope that eventfully justifies the physical massacres that occur in war. It is betrayal that discredits false ideals and harbors empty hopes. In All Quiet on the Western Front, youth like Paul Baümer greet the monster that is betrayal and eventually watch as this monster consumes their lives from the literal western front to the fronts that exist in their hometowns. This betrayal unfolds itself through the actions of Kantorek, the military practices, and sadly, the civilians.

The preaching of inauthentic education fuels the deepest resentments among the soldiers in All Quiet on the Western Front. This form of illegitimate knowledge fetishized death through the justification of glory and fame. This manifested itself under sermons of false passions that presented the concept of a chivalrous soldier who combated the villainous enemy in the name of protecting the fatherland. At the front, Paul and his platoon reflect upon their schoolteacher, Kantorek. Paul recollects, ³It is so very queer that the unhappiness of the world is so often brought upon by small men.´(15) Kantorek, having no knowledge of the truths of war, belittled his students into enlisting for what was perceived to be a just war. These students soon realized that they had been deceived and that the picture perfect world of courage and valiance was a lie. ³The first bombardment showed us our mistakes, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.´(17) ³The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered

´(10) In times of war. Kantorek¶s personal actions mirrored that of his entire generation by believing that he was acting for the best in a way that cost him nothing. it comes to no surprise that military life soon betrays the soldiers. Ginger. the most desirable things that a soldier wants are food and sleep. Having been brainwashed with romanticized notions of war. Another example of such betrayal is the cold indifference that the doctors had in regards to Paul¶s friend and fellow soldier. This older generation romanticized the fame and glory that came with the war while ignoring the violent bloodbaths that the innocent youth faced. This overweening desire for pride exemplifies how the older generation had betrayed the youth. ³Eighty men can¶t have what is meant for a hundred and fifty. Kantorek¶s search for approbation by sending his students off to war was reminiscent of emperors who only sought to get into history books off of someone else¶s merit. One of the earliest demonstrations of such betrayal is evident in the cook.´(16) In his ignorance. In the hospital. Specifically.this belief. who displays bureaucratic behavior towards the soldiers when serving rations by saying. Kantorek had believed that the war was better understood by the older generation than the soldiers themselves because the older generation understood the war as a ³whole´. Kemmerich receives little attention from doctors as they pass by his bed ³without once looking at him. Franz Kemmerich.´(29) The doctors . Food is love and the military¶s resistance from feeding the men a sufficient meal shows the heartlessness of the situation. The lack of food despite its obvious presence is a sign of the betrayal that the soldiers faced.

´(34) Paul becomes enraged by the neglective behavior of the doctors and only feels further let down. from his own people. While the soldiers themselves were painted chivalrous. Lastly. amputated thigh. . which in result. In attempt to spur a debate. This is evident during the frantic craze that Paul enters while searching for a doctor to help him when Kemmerich is about to die. I've amputated five legs to-day. and yet none seemed to care about his friend¶s death: "Come quick. Paul is pestered by the constant discussion of the war by the same older generation that created the chivalrous image of a soldier sacrificing his life for the benefit of the fatherland. another patient. another body bag. Franz Kemmerich is dying. another amputated leg. another number. Paul¶s temporary return home presents the ultimate form of betrayal not from a military official. and soon. This older generation had pushed Paul¶s generation into fighting a war without fully understanding the war¶s true horrors. Paul is bombarded with questions regarding the front without an audience that genuinely wanted his answer. Their reaction to Kemmerich¶s death was pathetic and defeatist." "How should I know anything about it. but rather. This older generation had failed to grasp what the war would be like in a physical sense whereas they believed in understanding the whole of the war and not a small section of it.don¶t view Kemmerich as a person. During his leave. only exemplifies the persistent theme of betrayal that is evident in the older generation." "Which will that be?" "Bed 26. They simply see him as bed 26. doctors were perceived to be heroic by saving the lives ± or at least attempting to ± of the wounded.

It is in the newspapers. much like Paul¶s father. would bask in the glory of his son. These lies fueled an enigmatic resentment for the discussion of the . It was the older generation that started the war but they left it to the younger generation to fight it.´(149) The civilians see the war as something that is not truly a part of them. But I refuse.The civilians. but rather. decided that they knew more than Paul and were more interested in hearing themselves speak rather than Paul. and honor but they failed to realize that all of this was intended not for them. being rather stupid about the war. They are spectators to the war while Paul is the true participant in the battles that erupt on the front. for the older generation. and yet they are always absorbed in the things that go to make up their existence. glory. Paul¶s generation was misled into believing that the war would bring fame. how badly it goes and how well it goes. Paul decides that he is uncomfortable with the constant talk of the war and decides that he would rather be alone so that no one would trouble him: ³They all come back to the same thing. This allowed for the younger generation to feel betrayed because they were pushed them into a war and used as trophies just as Paul¶s father used him: ³My father would rather I kept my uniform on so that he could take me to visit his acquaintances. one thinks it is this way. but it is not their home. The war does not affect the civilian the same as it does the soldier. another that. Eventually.´(107) This youth was forced to face the true difficulties and horrors that war brings while the older generation. fortune.

. They were lied to and betrayed. and finally. it gripped their very beings. They were betrayed by their mentors. their people. This image was so wrought with deceit and lies that when they finally discovered the truth. In turn. this was the ultimate form of betrayal. It is the disappointment and deceit that had impacted the soldiers the most. This is how young innocent soldiers were betrayed by the older generation. their military.issue of the war as well as the resentment of what they once viewed as their fellow people. The consensual hallucination that was fed to Paul and his platoon was the same hallucination that was fed to the rest of the generation.