All Quiet on the Western Front: Ending Analysis

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

In Erich M. Remarque's 'All Quiet on the Western Front,' the fate of main character Paul Baumer relates Remarque's ultimate thoughts on war and how the soldier's view of war differs from others. Read on for a short analysis of the ending of this novel.

The Beginning of the End

The end of All Quiet on the Western Front includes not only the final chapter, but also a postscript after the chapter that tells of Paul Baumer's fate. The chapter and postscript give the reader an insight into how his service in World War I has changed him psychologically and serve as a fitting ending to his story.

Paul Baumer's Last Words

The last full chapter of All Quiet on the Western Front begins years into the war. Most of Paul's friends have died and Paul himself has time to think because he is recuperating after being poisoned with mustard gas. He sits outside under a tree, pondering his future and the future of the other young men who have fought in the war.

Paul's mental state is poor because of the sadness of losing many of his friends in the war. He thinks that there is no way for him, or any other soldiers, to lead a normal life after all of the violence: Now if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope.

Furthermore, Paul sees his generation as being a lost generation. The men who are lucky enough not to have died will go home and be ignored by the generations ahead of them, who sent them to war, and surpassed by the generations behind them, who do not have the same psychological and physical scars of war. He believes that he and his generation of war veterans will be forgotten and that the whole generation will fall into ruin.

However, Paul still has hope. He thinks that he might simply be depressed in the moment; he believes that he might still find inspiration and hope for his future. This thought gives Paul a final burst of mental strength, and he decides that since he has already lost his innocence and health to the older generation's war, he has nothing else to lose: I am so alone, and so without hope that I can confront them without fear. Instead, he decides that will take control of his own life after the war in some way.

The poster for the film version of the novel

The Fate of Paul Baumer

In a short post-script after Paul gives his final thoughts, there is a report that Paul died at war in October of 1918. The Army reported so little fighting that it was 'all quiet on the Western Front' according to them, even though Paul's life ended in violence.

Paul's body is described as though sleeping, and when found, his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.

What Does the Ending Mean?

Paul speaks to us in first-person through the book, so we get to know him personally and to hear his direct thoughts. As Paul lives through the war, he becomes increasingly disillusioned and displaced; he becomes less trusting of the older generation who sent him to war and feels as though he has no place in modern society because of the violence and death that he has been witness to.

By the end of the book, Paul has lost all trust in the older generation. He believes that they have taken his dreams from him and that at least he can confront them without fear. By this, he means that in the past, he used to respect the older generation so much that he feared them, much like people view their parents when they are children or teenagers. However, now that he has seen that their ideas about war are so wrong, he has no fear of angering them. He believes that when he comes home from war, he can instead live his own life and find his own way without needing their guidance.

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