Quote 4

Just as we turn into animals when we go up to the line . . . so we turn into wags and loafers when we are resting. . . . We want to live at any price; so we cannot burden ourselves with feelings which, though they may be ornamental enough in peacetime, would be out of place here. Kemmerich is dead, Haie Westhus is dying . . . Martens has no legs anymore, Meyer is dead, Max is dead, Beyer is dead, Hammerling is dead . . . it is a damnable business, but what has it to do with us now—we live.

In this grim passage from Chapter Seven, Paul discusses the psychological process of how a soldier disconnects himself from his feelings in order to survive the terror of the war. After the bloody fighting, Paul and his friends are lying about enjoying a moment of relaxation and leisure, and have pushed their recent horrific experiences out of their minds. Paul says that terror can be survived only if one avoids thinking about it; otherwise, feelings of grief, fear, and despair would drive a man mad. Paul even looks upon those feelings with contempt, calling them “ornamental enough during peacetime” and implying that they are superfluous luxuries rather than essential components of the human experience. To help the reader understand the pressure that is always upon the soldier, Paul presents his appalling list of recent casualties, friends, and comrades who were either killed or badly injured in recent fighting. There is even a grotesque poetry to the list with the alliteration and rhyme of the names Martens, Meyer, Max, and Beyer, demonstrating the stoic attitude that Paul claims is necessary for survival.