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Muller in All Quiet on the Western Front

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Muller is one of the most vocal characters in Erich Maria Remarque's famed novel ''All Quiet on the Western Front''. In this lesson, learn about Muller as a character and his importance in the novel.

Who Is Muller?

Muller is a character in Erich Maria Remarque's 1928 novel All Quiet on the Western Front. The novel itself follows a young German soldier, Paul Baumer, as he serves on the Western Front in World War I. It proved to be very controversial and was even burned in the 1930s by the Nazi Party as Hitler came to power. Because of the realistic, grim portrayal of war and the overall anti-war tone the book takes, it's still considered one of the foremost war novels ever written.

Muller is a member of Paul Baumer's unit at the front. He's very young, maybe 18 or 19, and went to school with Paul. Muller is very pragmatic, even from his first appearance in the novel, and often looks to the future, asking his comrades what they plan to do after the war. He's a very straightforward kind of guy, and he's always looking out for himself, something one must do in a war situation.

The novel portrays the grim realities of trench warfare in World War I
Trenches

Muller as a Realist

From the first moment Muller appears in the novel, it's clear that he's the type of guy who is focused on his own survival. Considering the realities of trench warfare in World War I, you really can't blame the guy. Trench warfare was a brutal thing, and many men died from diseases like typhus due to the unsanitary conditions, as well as bombardments and shelling. Muller is introduced as a friend of the narrator, Paul, and the boys know each other well.

In Chapter 1, Muller goes to the hospital with Paul to visit an injured comrade, who will likely not live much longer. Rather than dwelling on sorrow, Muller asks the young man if he can have his boots. The boots are described as being of very high quality, while Muller's own are torn and worn out. You might be thinking, 'How insensitive to ask your dying friend for his clothes!' Think about it from Muller's perspective: He's in a horrible situation where he could be killed any day. The trenches are unsanitary and usually full of cold mud, blood, etc. If Muller takes the boots, they'll at least offer him some comfort and warmth. To his credit, he does ask, rather than just stealing the boots. Paul, the narrator, mentions that Muller would never dream of taking a living man's boots or belongings.

Muller's Fearful Side

In Chapter 5, Muller also engages the unit in a discussion of their plans for peacetime. He grows increasingly insistent and seems desperate to hear these ideas and dreams. It appears he's trying to hold onto a belief that they'll all make it back home. Directly after this, Muller leads the boys in mocking the things they learned in school, facts and figures that seem completely meaningless to them now. Muller, for all his realistic concerns, shows himself in these moments to be just like the other young men at the Front. He's young, afraid, and very vulnerable.

Sadly, this dream of returning to peacetime never happens for Muller. He is shot by an enemy pistol and suffers horribly for several minutes before dying. In his final moments, he gives his beloved boots, the ones given to him by his dying friend, to Paul.

Boots from World War I
Boots

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