The story opens with the protagonist, Paul Baumer and the rest of his army company, five miles from the front, having been at the front the previous day.
They all received double rations of everything - cigars, cigarettes and food - and are quietly celebrating this.
Later on, they meet Himmelstoss again at the front during an offensive where Paul finds him cowering in a shell hole pretending to be wounded, only to see him overcome with some kind of blind courage and join the next wave of troops charging forwards.
After the battle Himmelstoss is appointed company cook and the men see a change in him.
In my essay I intend to show how the author makes these themes vivid to the reader.
One way the author highlights the futility of war is through the use of key incidents.The turning point in Paul's attitude towards Himmelstoss happens when Paul and Albert Kropp have been ordered to empty a latrine and spill it on Himmelstoss.After this Paul still follows his orders but will always try to twist the wording to infuriate Himmelstoss as much as possible.They are not enemies but each fight the idea of the other, the German versus the Russian or the German versus the Frenchman.By the last few chapters of the book all of Paul's comrades and old friends are being killed.Himmelstoss, their training corporal, is shown to be slightly sadistic.He uses an immensely cruel method to cure Tjaden and another man of their bed-wetting and makes the men do repetitive and tedious exercises in muddy fields.The emotional disturbances are observed in another case where Paul comes face to face with the enemy soldiers.“The moment we are about to retreat three faces rise from the ground in front of us……..I find it ironic that the only reason that they have these extra rations is due to an army mistake as the army had provided for a company of one hundred and fifty men but only eighty had returned from the front alive.The first example of "waste of life" is the death of Paul's school friend Kemmerich.