Kantorek in All Quiet on the Western Front

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Kantorek is a character from Remarque's ''All Quiet on the Western Front'' who brings some themes to the attention of the reader. In this lesson, learn about Kantorek as a character and the role he plays in the novel.

Who is Kantorek?

Kantorek is a character mentioned in Erich Maria Remarque's famed World War I novel All Quiet on the Western Front. The novel was published in 1928 and proved super controversial from the very beginning. It was even burned by the Nazis as they came to power in Germany in the 1930s - due to its graphic, realistic depictions of violence and trench warfare along the Western Front.

Kantorek doesn't actually serve on the front lines, isn't even in the army, and he doesn't make a physical appearance in the novel at all. The narrator, Paul, and the boys in his unit, at the front, reminisce about Kantorek from time to time, because he was their schoolmaster. Kantorek was harsh and greatly invested in the glory of Germany. He's actually the one who convinced the boys to join the army, rather than wait to be drafted, and he's completely bought into the propaganda about German Pride and Glory. Needless to say, the boys aren't huge fans of Kantorek.

The novel depicts the brutalities of trench warfare in World War I

Kantorek and the Fatherland

You know that teacher you had that you really didn't like because he or she was kind of ridiculous? That's good old Kantorek for the boys of All Quiet on the Western Front. Kantorek is older, and he's a teacher, which was a respected position in Germany during the 1910s, and he's supposed to be intellectually and morally above the normal classes of people in this society. However, Kantorek provides the boys with lies and propaganda. The boys talk about Kantorek's long-winded speeches about loyalty and service to the Fatherland, and it seems apparent he is a bit of a blowhard.

The thing Paul despises most about Kantorek, though, is the fact that he encouraged all the boys to enlist knowing they would probably all die. Kantorek makes these huge, sweeping speeches about German loyalty and pride, and about doing one's duty for the Fatherland, and these ideas are hard to resist. Keep in mind Paul and his comrades at the front are all around 18 years old.

Kantorek's Importance

Remember from an earlier paragraph that Kantorek is a huge believer in German propaganda, especially during wartime? Well, Remarque includes him in the novel to reinforce his anti-war stance, but to also represent the older entrenched people who are at fault for encouraging the war.

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