Tjaden in All Quiet on the Western Front

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

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

The young men in Erich Remarque's ''All Quiet on the Western Front'' fighting in Germany all have their own hopes and dreams that they hold onto while confronting the madness of World War I. Learn more about one of these men, Tjaden, in the following lesson.

Tjaden: Locksmith, Big Eater, Rebel

Tjaden is a close friend of the main character, Paul, both of whom are eighteen when they enlist in the army. A locksmith outside of war time, Tjaden is impulsive, emotional, and a big eater, always looking for his next meal. Paul describes him as a tall, skinny fellow who eats so much at meal time that when he gets up, his stomach bulges as if he were pregnant. Tjaden eats so much because he is young and still growing. His appetite is a reminder of the youth of those sent to war. Tjaden, Paul, and most of the men are in their teens and twenties, and are becoming a lost generation because they are being killed at war.

Distrust of Authority

Tjaden also has a disrespect for authority because authority has failed him so fully. His commander at military camp, Himmelstoss, treated him exceptionally cruelly.

Himmelstoss, who is a postman in his civilian life, is so drunk with power when he is given the job of an officer in the military that he abuses his position by giving the young men exercises that are more punishment than teaching method. Tjaden in particular has a bedwetting problem, and Himmelstoss pairs him with another bedwetting soldier in bunk beds, alternating who is on the bottom bunk each night. Himmelstoss believes he is teaching these soldiers to stop being lazy, but clearly Tjaden's issue is medical. In the end, Tjaden often gets sick from having to sleep on the cold floor.

Tjaden does not forget this, and retaliates by joining with his friends to jump and beat Himmelstoss, using Himmelstoss's tactics of cruelty against Himmelstoss himself. Still, this is not enough for Tjaden, who also openly disrespects Himmelstoss in front of other soldiers and is court-martialed, or put on military trial and punished, for his disrespect.

Tjaden, a side character in the novel (seen here in German), is a typical immature young man, but the stresses of World War I cause him to grow emotionally by the end of the novel.

Still a Child

Like a child, Tjaden wants immediate vengeance and has a very long memory when it comes to injustices committed toward him. This only stresses that he is in many ways still a child, at least in mental development. The recurring theme is that Tjaden is a young man still learning about the world who has been subjected in so many ways to the horrors of war.

Tjaden and the World War

Tjaden's views of World War I are cynical. He dislikes the way that the war is framed; he thinks that France against Germany is inaccurate, as French and German everyday working people pay no mind to one another. He recognizes that it is the heads of the French and German countries who want to go to war, and he feels himself to be no part of that conflict.

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