Whilst reading ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, sometimes I think about the part I would play in watching someone close to me feel the creeping cold shoulder of death rising in a moment in his or her life. In tutorials this week as a collective we discussed the way in which Paul tries to comfort young, 19-year-old Franz Kemmerich on his deathbed. My first reaction was looking towards the way Remarque describes Kemmerich’s death through the eyes of Paul. By taking a visual point of view he continually describes his appearance as it develops to being greyer and duller each time he mentions it.
“He looks a terrible, yellow & pallid and his face already has those weird lines that we are all so familiar with because we’ve seen them a hundred times before.”
The motif of dying soldiers as a repetitive framework adds to the evanescence, the feeling after you lose something or someone you love or cherish. The faint memory of previously lost brothers makes the situation become bittersweet. For instance, if I was placed in this exact situation, the bittersweet feeling may simultaneously crush my emotions by watching someone close to me slowly drift away, but in like manner, this same feeling would have occurred multiple times. As a result leaving my status at that very time to be shaken, blank and being confronted once again by the cold breath of death.
The thorough description creates an image painted by the emotions of dying. Similarly, I believe my approach towards this situation would align with Paul’s. As uncomfortable as he is by watching a fellow soldier turn cold and pale by the second, his inside thoughts never slip out. Instead, professes purely optimistic and comforting words to lift up Kemmerich’s final moments. For example, Paul makes this remark;
“It is obvious to everyone that Kemmerich is never going to leave this room”
But obviously, comforts Kemmerich by giving him words of encouragement and support such as;
“Chin up, Franz. ”
All in All, I believe that Paul’s stance in this situation is fairly appropriate. Due to this condition being extremely unique an individual never truly knows the correct things to say. Paul continuously is shown to speak openly about how death is like a person. He personifies death as a creeping monster eating it’s way through Kemmerich. I agree with this notion if my close friend was lying in a bed waiting to die I would blame death for taunting with their lives too.
“…death is working its way through him”
It’s just a circumstance soldiers in war had to go through….
Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’