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All Quiet on the Western Front Discussion Questions

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Are you planning a lesson on 'All Quiet on the Western Front' by Erich Maria Remarque? These discussion questions will help your high school students delve into the depths of the dark yet enlightening material.

All Quiet on the Western Front

It was nurse Vera Brittain who exclaimed 'I wish those people who talk about going on with this war whatever it costs could see the soldiers suffering from mustard gas poisoning.' Until All Quiet on the Western Front opened the readers' eyes to the brutality of war, many people thought of war as merely some sort of glorious conquest.

Your high schoolers will benefit from these discussion questions, because they will see World War I through the eyes of an author who literally survived to tell about the inhumane conditions.

Questions About the Plot

  • Although the book started out with what seemed to be a positive scene of Paul's troop receiving double rations, what was the real reason they received this extra food?
  • How do you reconstruct what happened to Paul's friend Kemmerich at the hospital? What became of his boots?
  • How did Paul and his comrades get revenge against Himmelstoss for his abusive behavior?
    • How do you judge this revenge? What other options could have been taken against him?
  • How do you break down what happened to Paul and the soldiers when they were shelled in the cemetery?
  • What happened when Paul and his friends met the three French women while swimming?
    • Were the French women really more interested in the guys or the food the guys gave them? Why?
  • When Paul returned home, how do you visualize what his relations were like with his mother and father? What did he say when he confronted the teacher who talked him into enlisting?
  • How did Paul treat the Russian soldiers he was guarding? Why did he treat them in this manner?
  • In what way do you consider the scene in which the French soldier fell into the foxhole with Paul was the climax of the entire story?
    • If that were you in the foxhole with the French soldier, how would you have handled the situation?
      • Would you have killed the French soldier, or let him live and trusted that he wouldn't kill you? Why?
  • How would you describe what horrors and incompetence Paul saw while recovering in the hospital?
  • How would you analyze what happened to Kat while Paul was carrying him to safety?
  • Finally, how do you portray what became of Paul on October 11th, 1918, exactly one month before the end of World War I?

Questions About the Themes

  • Why do you imagine the moniker 'The Lost Generation' was first coined by Gertrude Stein, and later referred to by Ernest Hemingway to describe the people of this era?
  • In what ways did the soldiers feel betrayal from their teacher, their parents, and their country?
    • How were they even betrayed by the hospital surgeons?
  • How did the novel vividly portray people being cruel to one another? What were some rare examples of people being kind instead?
  • How was the concept of comradeship prevalent throughout the book?
    • How would you depict the camaraderie that existed between Paul and the other soldiers?
      • Can civilians ever fully understand that feeling known as esprit de corps? Why or why not?
  • How did the trench warfare that was so prevalent in World War I takes its toll both physically and mentally?
  • How did the new weapons, often launched form afar, further dehumanize war versus when men would fight face-to-face in battle?
    • How did the book wake up the reader to the fact they had been sold a false 'bill of goods' that war was all about glory, patriotism, and honor?
  • How do you critique the ways in which the book illustrated the concepts of loss and longing?
    • What were some of the things the soldiers lost and longed for as the war progressed?

Questions About the Soldiers

  • Paul and his comrades were volunteers. How would you have viewed them differently if instead they were drafted without any choice into the war, like many other soldiers?
  • How would you describe the emotional condition known as 'shell shock' experienced by many soldiers? In that era, why were victims of it considered to be mentally weak?
    • How would you juxtapose shell shock in World War I, versus PTSD and CPTSD in modern times?
      • How would you compare and contrast the way soldiers with shell shock were treated then, as opposed to the way they are treated now?
    • How did scenes of soldiers dealing with bedwetting issues show that they were still teenagers in physical age, and in certain ways even emotionally younger?

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