Education Is a Central Theme in Remarques Novel

Education Is a Central Theme in Remarques Novel Education is a central theme in Remarque’s novel. This novel is suffused with the sense that the younger generation has been misled and tricked by the older generation into fighting a war with no purpose.

Education Is a Central Theme in Remarques Novel
Education Is a Central Theme in Remarques Novel

Discuss the role of education and miseducation in the novel, be it in school, at basic training, or on the battlefield.  One way to possibly handle this is to contrast the teachers and parents with Kat, but this is only one possibility.  Another might be to look at the hostility that Paul and his friends have not for the French, but for the Germans in power who have pushed them into this conflict.

  1. Gertrude Stein once famously referred to the young men who went off to fight in WWI as a lost generation. How might this idea be applied to Paul and his friends?   In what ways have they been altered irrevocably by the war?  One scene worth keeping in mind is Paul’s furlough back home, which raises the possibility of his ever being able to truly go home.  Another possibility could be to consider the circumstances of Remarque following the war (here you would need to use critical/biographical sources).  In what ways do the young men, in particular, seem to fear the end of the war as much as they do the war itself?  Likewise, in what ways does the novel reflect Remarque’s desire to tell the story of those who, even if they escaped the shells, were destroyed by the war?  If All Quiet on the Western Front is a Bildungsroman, what growth does Paul show or is able to show?
  2. Remarque’s novel supports, in many ways, William Tecumseh Sherman’s famous quote that war is hell. In what ways does the novel manage to do this?  How is the new technology of war – machine guns, gas, tanks, heavy shells – contributing to this hellish experience?  In what ways does war make those who fight both see their enemies as human but also act in inhuman ways themselves?  There are many scenes to consider in respect to this, but one scene that could potentially serve as a compelling contrast is Paul’s scene in the trench with the dead French soldier.  Another scene worth considering is Kantorek’s letter and the soldiers’ reaction to it.
  3. While war certainly can bring out the worst in us, Remarque is equally interested in how, paradoxically, it can also bring out the best. How is comradeship explored in the novel?  Look at Paul’s friendship with his fellow soldiers.  How has war created a bond between these young men that peace never could?  Paul’s friendship with Kat is another relationship worth exploring with respect to this question.  Likewise, the scene with the goose dinner explicates this theme quite strongly, as does the scene in which Paul is trapped in Chapter 9.


  1. The irony is ever present in Remarque’s novel, from the lies told by hypocrites pushing young men to war to the very title itself. How is irony explored in the novel?  Scenes of particular interest could be Paul’s time in the trench with the dead French soldier, Paul’s return home, Kat’s death, and the novel’s final moments.  Another angle might be to consider this novel as a kind of Bildungsroman, chronicling the growth of the spiritual maturity of its hero, Paul, which nevertheless ends the way that it ends.
  2. Discuss the novel in terms of the actual historical period that Remarque is depicting. Note here that while the question is broad, your response to it must be very specific, i.e. you must pick a very particular battle, a feature of the war, etc., in your discussion.  How does the novel compare to the actual history?  In what ways is it accurate?  If inaccurate, to what ends?

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