Copyright

Detering in All Quiet on the Western Front

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Detering is one of many memorable characters from Erich Maria Remarque's famous novel ''All Quiet on the Western Front''. In this lesson, learn about Detering and his role.

Who is Detering?

Detering is a character from Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. The novel itself addresses the brutality of World War I and follows a young man, Paul, as he and his unit engage in trench warfare along the war's Western Front. It's full of gore, extreme violence, and many deaths, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to its portrayal of the realities of war.

Detering is a minor character in the book and a member of Paul's unit at the front. He's a farmer by trade and misses his farm, his animals, and his family deeply. You can't blame him - he's in an unfamiliar land, fighting a war he may never return from. Detering is one of the only men in the unit who is unable to adapt to life at the front.

The novel shows the brutality of trench warfare in World War I
Trench warfare

Detering the Farmer

As mentioned before, Detering shows himself to be a kindhearted man. As a farmer, he has a soft spot for animals, especially horses. During an enemy attack at the front, he has his one outburst as he listens to the screams of dying and injured horses and begs for them to be shot and put out of their misery. He's pushed to shouting and hysterics for the innocent creatures and their suffering.

Interestingly enough, as much pain as Detering feels on behalf of the injured horses, he's an excellent ratcatcher. And that's not a euphemism or anything; Detering is actually very good at catching rats in the trenches. The trenches were brutal, grim, gruesome places, full of rats and lice, so catching rats was a good talent to have. He puts some bread on a wire and dangles it in the center of a bunker, and voila, a rat is caught.

Detering never really seems to adjust to life at the front, and, unlike the other young men, is still moved by beauty. He comes upon a blooming cherry tree at one point and can't get over how lovely it is, while the others in the unit don't feel anything. Detering explains that he has a cherry tree on his farm, and this only reminds him of home even more. He's never stopped missing his wife, farm, and animals, and he obviously longs to return to them.

Finally, Detering can't take it anymore. He must get out. Can you blame him? The trenches of World War I were truly abysmal, terrifying places, and soldiers witnessed atrocities every day. Wouldn't you want to return to your civilian life and the ones you love? He steals away in the dead of night, escaping the trenches and the front. Ultimately, Detering fails in his escape and is caught and court-martialed. Nobody hears from him again.

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