A few days ago, I finished All Quiet.
I have a lot of thoughts about the ending, obviously; ranging from “oh my god my poor baby Paul and oh god Kat” to “you know, that was a pretty solid ending” to “WHAT KIND OF AN ENDING IS THAT?? I NEED A RE-WRITE WHERE EVERYONE IS HAPPY AND NO ONE DIES.” If I have time I’ll go through the parts I liked, the parts I didn’t like, etc. But in particular, today I wanted to write about this idea that stuck with me.
Paul and his companions are, evidently, not considered actual people, really. From Kantorek, they are simply young, impressionable minds to be influenced and sent to the front lines as essentially fodder. From Himmelstoss, they are nothing. From civilian society, they are war heroes, deeds, the epitome of romanticized war instead of the living repercussions of such brutality. From no sides are they thought of as actual, individual people with individual fears and dreams and desires – rather, they’re lumped in with those near to them in age or rank, and treated all the same.
It reminds me of this letter I read yesterday.