In Chapter 7, Paul realizes the dangers and threats of war. Paul realizes that a soldier will need good food and good rest, for many things can happen in war, and life can change in an instant. Other men see this too, even Himmelstoss the tyrant is changed. He gives the men sweets rather than his rage. To me this shows how men's attitudes can change under great threats. Bonds can form between men who have once been enemies. These bonds are especially evident between Paul and the men in his company including Kat, Tjaden, and Müller. When Paul journeys home to visit his family and sick mother, I noticed these ties to his friends.
When Paul ventures away from his friends back to his house in Germany, I realized a change in his mindset. Paul's home is not in fact his house, but the place his friends dwell, the Western Front. Home is where the people that we love are, not the frame of wooden beams in which we were raised. Paul loves his mother, but the trauma of her sickness and his anxiety to go back to the Front with his band of brothers takes over. Although Paul learned the value of living a peaceful life, he wished to return to the battlefront in order to reside with his friends.
Chapter 8 is one of the most emotional sections of the novel. When Paul returned from his vacation and was stationed at a prison camp for Russian Soldiers, Paul has a chance to empathize with his enemies. Paul sees these people who his country considers enemies and instead looks upon them as poor young men. Instead of kicking and punishing them, he has empathy and even gives them food. Looking back on Paul's time in the prison camps, this made Paul realize that the men he was shooting at on the Front were not savage killers, but decent men. Today, this phenomenon is still existent and a brutal reality for those who have killed others in war. In the prison camp, Paul also has time to reflect. As Paul watches the birch trees he notices that “It is when one is alone that one begins to observe Nature and love her.” To me this shows how big of a role companionship and camaraderie plays on the Front. Paul's main focus was always keeping his comrades alive, and had no time to focus on being alone and enjoying time. His friends always came before Paul's own pleasure on the Front.
As I dove into the pages of Chapter 9, my eyes read lines of sadness. Paul is back on the Front, and he keeps thinking of the Russian Soldiers that he left behind to die. He is living the “peaceful” life on the Front until the French launch a savage attack of shells on the German lines. In the darkness of war, I saw events that unfolded showing the true hardships of war. The German soldier go on a patrol through a battle torn woods which is full of bodies that are ripped apart by gunfire and shells. To me, this illustrates how war creates so much destruction to both land and people. After this patrol, Paul is sent out into the darkness of the Front's lines. Suddenly, a French soldier suddenly appears behind Paul. Paul does what his instincts tell him to do: pull out his dagger and stab the man. Paul does just this and immediately regrets it. As his knife sinks into the man's flesh, so does Paul's spirits. As Paul experiences grief for the death of this young man, I realized what the hardest part of war is for any decent person. It is not the pain of being struck by a bullet or shell. It is the emotional pain of having to kill a fellow soldier.
Books 7-9 has showed me what it is like to be a seasoned veteran in World War I. The battlefront is full of trauma for these young soldiers. I thought that this section of the novel demonstrated the hardship, dangers, and threats in the war. The only ones who survive are the ones who demonstrate courage. Their bodies may die, but their spirits will always live on.