Search Menu


Chapter Eight

page 2 of 2

Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

In advancing this argument, this chapter again looks at the role of political power in initiating military conflict and concludes that the powerful people who decide to wage war are the common soldier’s real enemies. Paul reflects that he and the Russian prisoners are supposed to be enemies simply because other people more powerful than he and the prisoners decreed it so, not because of anything intrinsic to Paul, the Russians, or their relationship. Someone else decided that they had to shoot, kill, and torture one another, denying one another’s humanity and finally destroying their own.

Before he takes this thought too far, Paul quickly flees it, driven again by the necessity of keeping himself detached from the full force of his feelings. He knows that if he thinks too deeply about the causes of participation in the war, his thoughts will only make the senselessness of everything that he has experienced all too apparent. The idea of acknowledging that the war is meaningless threatens Paul’s last reserve of hope. He decides to save his thoughts for a later time because he cannot afford the psychological damage that they would cause him now.

Paul’s interaction with his father and sister in this chapter further illustrates that his experience in the war has alienated him from his past. Paul remains unable to resume his previous relationship with his family because the war has damaged his innocence and given him a new mindset that his family cannot possibly understand. In these scenes, Remarque essentially retreads the thematic material that he covers during Paul’s visit home earlier in the novel. But he also demonstrates that the trauma Paul has suffered during the war has made it impossible for him to confront his feelings of loss, fear, and grief about his mother’s illness; his worry for his mother is counterbalanced by the necessity of keeping his feelings at bay. At the same time, Remarque continues to emphasize Paul’s essential goodness, showing his feelings of compassion in his decision to give the potato cakes to the prisoners and in his realization that the cakes should mean something to him since the effort that his ailing mother put into making them constituted a sacrifice.

Test Your Understanding with the Chapter Eight Quiz

Take a quiz on this section
Test Your Understanding with the Chapter Eight Quiz



What does Paul think of the Russian prisoners of war he sees picking through German soldiers’ garbage?
They are like him
They are disgusting
Test Your Understanding with the Chapter Eight Quiz

Chapter Eight QUIZ

Test Your Understanding with the Chapter Eight Quiz
Kemmerich's Corkscrew Nails

by OverlyDramatic, August 14, 2012

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.


76 out of 109 people found this helpful

If you are here from COACH RICE'S class *READ*

by UltimateJBFan98, March 31, 2013

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


46 out of 91 people found this helpful


by TonmaiTree, October 01, 2013

This is really helpful, thanks!


6 out of 8 people found this helpful

See all 10 readers' notes   →

Buy on and save!

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front SparkNotes Literature Guide

Got it?
Take a quiz on this section →