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All Quiet on the Western Front Chapter 11 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

Chapter 11 of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front takes place in the summer of 1918--months away from the Armistice. The long war has taken its toll on Paul and his fellow soldiers, which is illustrated in this chapter.

A Dutch copy of the novel.
dutch

Devolution for Survival

''We count the weeks no more.'' These are the words which begin Chapter 11 of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. The war has raged on now for years. German supplies and troops are wearing thin. Morale is low. Paul, the book's narrator, gives us a sense of the effects of these conditions as he tells us the war ''has transformed us into unthinking animals in order to give us the weapon of instinct--it has reinforced us with dullness, so that we do not go to pieces before the horror.'' This mental devolution is a protection. Adopting ''the indifference of wild creatures'' helps these men to survive the horror that goes on around them, the constant threat of death, and the miserable conditions in which they live.

Madness Sets In

This mental devolution is not a fail-proof protection, however. Many men succumb to mental breakdowns of one sort or another. Under such extreme and constant duress, it is understandable. Paul tells of one man who ''tried to dig himself into the ground with hands, feet, and teeth.'' Another soldier, Berger, walked into open fire in order to rescue an injured dog. The soldier sustained a pelvic wound, and the men who had to go collect him were shot in the legs.

Physical Ailments

It is difficult to determine if the men are worse off mentally or physically. Their food is bad and scarce. They are constantly plagued with dysentery (bloody diarrhea). Paul wants to show the people at home the ''grey, yellow, miserable, wasted faces'' of the soldiers ''from whose bodies the colic wrings out the blood...with lips trembling and distorted with pain.'' In a grotesque attempt at humor, they joke with one another: ''It is not much sense pulling up one's trousers again.'' In addition to dysentery, the soldiers also suffer from typhus and influenza. It is a dismal picture, indeed.

Deficient Equipment

The German soldiers' equipment is in as bad a shape as their bodies. We read: ''Our artillery is fired out, it has too few shells and the barrels are so worn that they shoot uncertainly, and scatter so widely as even to fall on ourselves.'' Meanwhile, on the opposing side: ''There are too many fresh English and American regiments over there. There's too much corned beef and white wheaten bread. Too many new guns. Too many aeroplanes.'' The Germans are spent mentally, physically, and materially. They are failing in all ways, and they can feel it. ''We will not be able to attack again after this big offensive,'' Paul tells us, ''we have no more men and no more ammunition.''

Impending Armistice

By this time, rumors of armistice (which means a truce, a suspension of hostilities by agreement) are circulating among the troops. This news is torture to them, though, because it awakens them somewhat from the animalistic stupor they had sunk to in protection of their sanity. ''Never was life in the line more bitter and full of horror,'' explains Paul. With a rumor of an end to the war hanging over them, the men are now more than ever before truly afraid of dying. Paul continues to note that ''the blanched faces lie in the dirt and the hands clutch at the one thought: No! No! Not now! Not now at the last moment!'' It would be cruel torture to have lived through the long war and then die just before it ends.

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