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Kemmerich’s death extends the criticism of romantic illusions about the war. He dies from a relatively light wound that probably became infected—there is no glory in his death. Here Kantorek’s patriotic exhortations fail. In modern warfare, there is no room for refined notions of honor, nor for sentimentality. Müller needs Kemmerich’s boots; it is not that he or any of the other survivors are not affected by their friend’s death but rather that they cannot allow themselves to dwell on their grief. In this way, the boots become one of the novel’s most important symbols of the cheapness of life: the boots repeatedly outlive their owners, and each time the man wearing them dies, the question of who will inherit the boots overshadows the death. Life on the front is dangerous, ugly, dirty, and miserable; the soldiers do not have adequate food and clothing, and so the day-to-day matters of survival take precedence over sentimentality. The men cannot afford to act otherwise; dwelling on each friend’s death would lead to madness.
Early in the book, before Kemmerich's death, Paul pictures the man's nails and growing after his death, into long spirals and corkscrews. While this is a powerful visual, it is not true. A corpse's skin shrinks away from its nails and hair after death, giving the appearance of increased length. Sorry if I grossed you out, but that was on my test and I thought you should know just in case.
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Okay. Here is my advice to you. Read all through SparkNotes as you read through the book. I was soo confused til I looked on SparkNotes. But of course I looked over Spring Break right before the final test! It is a good book when you understand it TRUST ME! Yah -Sydney
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This is really helpful, thanks!
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