FC: All Quiet on the Western Front and theMonomyth | By: Ryan Kovacic
1: Stage 1 Step 1: The Call | The call for Paul Baumer is when his teacher, Kantorek, urges him and his entire class to sign up for the German army. According to the book, Kantorek was very persuasive as shown by Baumer's words: "During drill-time Kantorek gave us long lectures until the whole of our class...volunteered" (Remarque 11). Although the draft would have caused Baumer to sign up eventually, Kantorek persuaded him to go to combat earlier. This proved to be a large topic of discussion for Baumer and his comrades during the course of the novel.
2: Step 2: Refusal of the Call | Baumer doesn't have an outright refusal of the call but it is definitely evident in his words. In the book, one of Baumer's classmates hesitated to sign up but did so eventually. Regarding this, Buamer exclaimed, "And perhaps more of us thought as he did, but no one could very well stand out" (Remarque 11). This led me to believe that Baumer himself felt this way. Just in the way that he didn't want to stand out and not sign up, he also didn't want to admit to himself that he really was hesitant to do so. It seems to me that Baumer was the type of man that would do what had to be done, but would be much more content just living a simple life.
3: Step 3: Supernatural Aid/Mentor | Katczinsky serves as Baumer's mentor. Baumer has this to say about him: "The leader of our group, shrewd, cunning, and hard-bitten, forty years of age..." (Remarque 3). Kat, as he is often called, is the oldest and most experienced of all his comrades. One of his many talents is being able to find provisions, specifically food, everywhere he goes, which makes his comrades look up to him even more. When Baumer killed his first man in hand-to-hand combat, it was mainly Kat who was able to comfort him and calm him down (Remarque 228).
4: Step 4: Crossing the Threshhold | The crossing of the threshold is when Baumer sees his first death in the army. It is not so much a physical threshold as it is a mental one. After that point, Baumer cannot go back to his old way of thinking. It is then that he starts to view the war for what it really is; stupid and terrible. It also changed his view on authority. Baumer said that he viewed authority as "a greater insight and a more humane wisdom," but added that "the first death we saw shattered this belief" (Remarque 12). Baumer felt that his superiors had let him and his comrades down. I don't feel that simply going to the front was Baumer's crossing of the threshold because at that point, Baumer's thinking hadn't changed at all. He hadn't gotten a grip on the things that he was about to face.
5: Step 5: Belly of the Whale | The belly of the whale is Baumer's first experience in combat. This is not actually described in the book, but Baumer reflects on it: "We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through" (Remarque 13). Baumer had finally seen the horrors of war for himself and realized that survival will be harder than he thought. Later in the book Baumer talks about how afraid and helpless the new recruits are, but the way Baumer talks makes me believe that he acted very much the same way. I don't believe that Baumer exited the belly of the whale after just one battle either. It may have taken him several to finally come to grips with the war and how to survive it.
6: Stage 2 Step 1: Road of Trials | The road of trials is long and hard for Baumer. Surviving the battles are a trial of themselves, let alone all of the aftermath. Dealing with the death of all of his classmates and friends is another trial for Baumer, especially the death of Kat who he thought he had saved, only to find him dead from a shrapnel wound to the head (Remarque 290). Even going on leave proves to be a trial for Baumer. He exclaims, "What is leave?-A pause that only makes everything after it so much worse" (Remarque 179).
7: Step 2:Meeting with the Goddess | The goddess is Baumer's dying mother. She is the only person that Baumer can really connect with while on leave. Baumer is constantly pestered with questions about the front but exclaims that his mother "is the only one who asks no questions" (Remarque 165). In this way, Baumer's mother helps him maintain his sanity when returning to his home town. His mother doesn't offer him advice but she does give him gifts of food and wool underpants to help him on his journey (Remarque 184).
8: Step 3: Temptation | The temptation is when Baumer returns home on leave. People constantly pester him with questions and try to tell him that the war isn't that bad. His German man-master even says, "Naturally it's worse here. Naturally. The best for our soldiers every time, that goes without saying" (Remarque 166). Baumer realizes here that he has "been crushed without knowing it" (Remarque 168). Baumer has changed and is unable to return in peace to the world that he once knew but is still tempted to stay. This feeling sticks with him until he leaves and realizes that he must do his duty and maybe, when the war is over, he can return with a sense of peace.
9: Step 4: Atonement with the Father | Baumer's atonement with the father comes when he saves Kat. Kat suffers a shin wound so Baumer carries him back, off the front line. Baumer wishes that he could stay with Kat even saying, "Couldn't I shoot myself quickly in the foot so as to be able to go with him" (Remarque 289). Although Baumer won't be able to see Kat for a long time, he is happy that he is saved. I think Baumer is glad that after Kat has been able to help him so much throughout the novel, he is finally able to give him something back by saving his life. This satisfaction is short lived though, because Baumer discovers that Kat took a splinter to the back of the head while being carried and died before reaching safety (Remarque 290). This proves to be the most tragic and emotional part of the novel as Baumer loses the last of his comrades.
10: Step 5: Apotheosis | Baumer reaches apotheosis after he returns from injured leave. This apotheosis isn't like most. Baumer doesn't become all powerful and doesn't take on the world. His apotheosis comes in the realization that war is terrible, life is too fragile, and that the only comfort one has in war is with one's comrade's. Baumer states that "It is a great brotherhood, which adds something of the good-fellowship of the folk-song" (Remarque 272). The first two of these realizations play their role as Baumer's comrades start to die off one by one.
11: Stage 3 Step 1: Refusal of Return | The refusal of return happens after all of Baumer's comrades are dead or gone. Baumer sits peacefully away from the front because he is allowed rest after inhaling some gas (Remarque 293). When reflecting on his war experience, Baumer states, "Now if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope" (Remarque 294). Knowing nothing but war and carnage for so long has finally proven too much for him. At this point, Baumer is scared of what will happen if he goes back. He feels that he will not have a place in normal society.
12: Step 2: Master of Two Worlds | As strange as it may sound, I think this moment happens when Baumer dies. Throughout the entire book, Baumer was unable to keep his previous life and his war life separate. At the end of the book all of his comrades had died and I think that Baumer really didn't want to fight his feelings of despair and hopelessness any longer. The book supports this by stating, "his face had an expression of calm as though almost glad the end had come" (Remarque 296). Baumer's death allowed him to finally find the peace that he had been searching for throughout the entire novel.
13: Works Cited | Baumer Leaning Over Kat. n.d. Universal Studios. Gcaggiano. Web. 10 April 2011.
14: Man with Graves Behind Him. n.d. Universal Studios. Blogster. Web. 10 April 2011.
15: Men in the Trenches. n.d. Universal Studios. Aqwfresearch. Web. 10 April 2011.
16: Remarque, Eric. All Quiet on the Western Front. New York: Little Brown and Company, 1929. Print