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War is an experience that has physical and psychological damage on its victims. Many soldiers who have fought in war often become disconnected from their past lives and their loved ones. They may act in ways that may not seem appropriate or normal to people who have not experienced war but these actions are just the ramifications of the horrors of the war. In chapter ten of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Remarque shows how war makes soldiers act in extreme ways and how war can only be understood among the soldiers themselves, both of which convey Remarque’s theme that war dehumanizes soldiers so much that they become alienated from the rest of society.

In chapter ten, Remarque shows how the actions and decisions the soldiers make are difficult for civilians to understand which supports his argument that war dehumanizes soldiers and isolates them from society. At the beginning of chapter ten, Paul and his friends experience luxury for the first time in a long time. They have a shelter with mattresses and find fresh meat and vegetables. For once, they feel like regular people and feel a small semblance of humanity. While they are preparing the feast, Paul and his friends become in danger when the enemy sees the smoke from the chimney and starts firing shells. The shells “ke[pt] dropping closer and closer … around [them], [but they] still … cannot leave the grub in the lurch” (Remarque 235). Paul should be concerned about his safety but instead, he complains that “frying the pancakes is getting difficult” (Remarque 235). Regular civilians would have run away at the sound of a bomb since it is our human nature to flee from danger, but for soldiers, it is part of their daily lives. Remarque’s description of the war scene seems casual and normal since it is from Paul’s perspective. The tone suggests the shellings are just a mere interruption of the soldiers’ daily lives and they feel annoyed that the bombing is ruining their feast. Remarque shows that Paul and his friends have become so used to the bombing and danger that they would rather risk their lives to have real food for once. It may be difficult for normal people to understand why Paul chooses to risk his life for food, but for Paul and his comrades, real food reminds them of their humanity. They are determined to enjoy a meal that reminds them of their lives before the war. Later in the chapter, when Paul and Kropp are on the hospital train, Paul becomes too embarrassed to lie on the bed. The bed is covered with clean linen and Paul does not feel worthy to lay in it because he has lice. Paul asks the nurse to remove the bed covers because his “shirt has gone six weeks without being washed and is muddy” which makes him “feel like a pig” (Remarque 246). The nurse laughs at Paul and says that the least she could do for him is to wash the sheets after he uses them and jokes that even the lice can have a good day. In this scene, Remarque shows how war has dehumanized Paul so much that he feels he does not deserve a basic, clean bed. Remarque also shows how the nurse does not understand Paul’s reluctance to get in bed to show how people who do not experience war can not understand a soldier’s decisions. The nurse’s joking manner contrasts how ashamed Paul is, and shows how Paul feels isolated from society because she does not understand him. A similar instance occurs when Paul needs to use the bathroom. He feels embarrassed again to tell the nurse he needs to use the restroom. The nurse has to help Paul articulate his needs by asking him, “[l]ittle or big” (Remarque 249). Remarque shows again how Paul feels uncomfortable asking for the bathroom to demonstrate how war has impacted Paul to feel like he should not ask someone as “wonderful and sweet” (Remarque 248) as the nurse to use the bathroom because he is a lowly soldier. Again, the nurse does not understand Paul’s hesitance to ask for the bathroom as she simply asks “Little or big?” This scene is another example of how soldiers and civilians are separated because civilians have been psychologically impacted by war. In these scenes, Remarque uses Paul’s actions to show that soldiers may act in questionable ways, but that is only because war has dehumanized them.

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Remarque further demonstrates how war dehumanizes soldiers leaving them isolated from society when he shows the comradeship between the soldiers. When Paul is in the hospital, he is placed in a room with Josef Hamacher. Josef covers for Paul when the hospital inspector asked who threw the bottle. Paul does not know Josef and is curious as to why he covered for him. When Josef says that he has a shooting license, they “all understand. Whoever has the shooting license can do whatever he pleases” (Remarque 253). Remarque shows a bond the soldiers have when they understand Josef’s reasoning immediately. Josef covering for a stranger is also an example of how soldiers are bonded together. Remarque also shows the importance of comradery when Albert’s leg is amputated. He becomes depressed and would rather shoot himself than live without a leg. Paul believes that “[i]f [Kropp] were not here with [them] he would have shot himself long ago” (Remarque 268). In the doctor’s eyes, he has just saved a life, but Kropp feels the opposite. Remarque shows how Albert feels worthless because, without his leg, he can no longer fight in war. Remarque also shows how if Paul had not been there for Kropp, Kropp may have not survived. The comradeship between the soldiers is all Kropp has left since the war has changed him forever. In both of these scenes, only the soldiers understand each other. The nuns do not understand why the soldiers do not want their prayers and would rather sleep, but among themselves, the soldiers do. Albert relies on the soldiers in the room after his amputation because no matter how clean and safe the hospital is, it would be a foreign environment without his friends. The war experienced has created a distance between the soldiers and society.

Remarque uses Paul, Kropp, and the other soldiers to “tell of a generation of men, who even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by war” (Remarque). The war has destroyed an entire generation of young men like Paul, leaving them “lost”—physically and psychologically damaged and unable to return to their past lives or society. Remarque writes that even if they manage to escape the shells, the experiences they have had permanently transformed them, leaving an unbridgeable divide between the young men who fight and the communities they have left behind.

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