Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades--words, words, words, but they hold the horror of the world.
Summary by Ben Sackett & Max Solomon
In Chapter 6 of All Quiet on the Western Front, there are rumors of another attack following the preceding ones. Once they are one their way to the Front, they pass a schoolhouse that has been bombed with coffins standing by. They start a conversation about how the coffins may be for them, as a result of the anticipated upcoming battle. While there is no action during the first night, they are convinced that the enemies were getting more advanced weapons for the advantage.
The men are getting discouraged, because their weaponry is lacking and they are going to be heavily outnumbered. They reflect on what life is like in the trenches, and their attention turns to the rats that are lingering about. Detering creates a plan that allows them to eliminate the number of rats in the trenches; they take pieces of bread, then lure the rats near them and beat them with shovels. That takes their mind off the war for a while, but not long after, their minds are diverted to the upcoming battle.
There were rumors about how the battle was going to be more intense, but the men disregard this and try not to think about the attack. Unfortunately, the attack came in the night, and the recruits are petrified. They are vomiting in fear, and they have to crawl around their dead comrades in order to stay alive. The soldiers make advances and try to fend off the attacks. Kropp and Haie throw grenades to try to keep the enemy at a safe distance. The new recruits re dying much faster than the more experienced ones, and Paul is running through the trenches when he runs into Himmelstoss. He is furious with him, and he is so angry, he throws him back into the trenches. The battle finally comes to an end, and they solemnly walk back to the barracks.
The last sentence of the chapter is “Thirty-two men,” which is the number of souls lost in the deadly attack.
Analysis by Winslow MacDonald & Clement Tarpey
Death: We have become wild beasts. We do not fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation. it is not against men that we fling our bombs, what do we know of men in this moment when Death is hunting us down--now, for the first time in three days we can see his face, now for the first time in three days we can oppose him.
Like an icy breath across the neck, Death always lingers on the mind of the German soldier. From the calm Ardenne forests to the trenches of the front line, Paul Baumer and his comrades are always clamped within the vice-like grip of Death. Whether they are hiding from a bombardment of English Heavies, or charging headlong at the enemy trench, Death is watching; awaiting an opportunity to strike. Paul and the remainder of his company survive through being tenacious, ruthless, and sometimes, simply by being lucky.
During a charge on the French lines, Paul and his brothers-in-arms fight savagely and without morals to preserve their own well being; and without time to think about their actions on the field of battle. After the battle, Paul is on sentry duty, looking out over the expanse of mud, corpses, and shell holes, when he begins to dream of times long past. He recalls standing in a church garden during a warm summer evening, taking in the beauty of the trees and the masonry. He wonders if he will ever experience such beautiful emotions again in his lifetime.“I stand there and wonder whether, when I am twenty, I shall have experienced the bewildering emotions of love.” Paul Baumer and his friends entered the war fresh-faced and young, thirsting for glory and filled with unquenchable patriotism. As time went on, their numbers decreased and friends fell, caught and ensnared in the trap of Death for all of eternity. As Paul continued on, his hopes and dreams were gradually squeezed out of him, in their place came the skills that he would need to battle Death, to escape Death, and to defeat Death. When Paul assaults the French lines, he brutally massacres every Frenchman he encounters, as they are trying to do the same to him. In those moments of primal fear, he sees his enemies as the embodiment of Death itself, and snuffs them out to preserve himself a while longer. As long as Paul is a soldier in the war he cannot escape Death, and even after the war, it will inevitably haunt the fringes of his world.
For Paul and his comrades, Death is all around them, embodied in the bombs that fall constantly, the men that they face, and even in themselves; all they can do is fight it with all their might, to keep them from their coffins a while longer.