All Quiet on the Western Front Plot Summary
All Quiet On The Western Front begins somewhere near the German/French front during World War I. It is told by Paul Baumer, a 19-year-old solider. He and his friends are eating a well-deserved meal after fighting and encountering heavy losses. After the meal Paul, Kropp, and Muller go to use the outdoor toilets and play cards.
Paul and some of his comrades all attended school together and were encouraged to join the army by their teacher, Kantorek. Now, as soldiers, they know that Kantorek has little understanding of the war. One of their friends, Kemmerich, is dying in the hospital. They go to visit him. While there, Muller asks him for his boots. They bribe an orderly to give him some pain medication and leave.
When Paul visits Kemmerich again, Kemmerich gives him his boots to give to Muller because he knows he is going to die. Paul does as he asks. New recruits come up from training, and they soon learn the hard lessons of fighting on the front. Paul and his comrades pass the time watching airplane battles and smoking. They are told that Himmelstoss, the corporal who abused them in training camp, is being sent to the front, and are happy that they will be able to take revenge against him.
They are sent to the front to string barbed wire. While there, they get shelled and have to take cover. A new recruit that Paul helps is badly hurt. All of this Paul takes for granted. After the shelling, they return to camp, where that pass the time killing lice. Paul's friend Tjaden encounters Himmelstoss and is rude to him. Himmelstoss reports him to the commander, Bertink, for insubordination. The Lieutenant gives Tajden a light punishment, and lectures Himmelstoss about the realities of the front versus training camp. Paul and Kat, their mentor, steal geese and cook them.
The men are sent to the front for an offensive. They spend many days in trenches with the tension building, until the fighting finally begins. The fighting is madness and many men are killed. Finally, after many weeks, they are sent back to camp, but with only 32 of the original 150 men who went to the front.
They get some rest time while their numbers are being built back up, and they use it well, relaxing and enjoying themselves. Paul and his friends see some French girls across the canal from their camp, and sneak away that night to give the girls food and have sex.
Before his company is sent back to the front, Paul is given leave to go home and then to have a month of training. He takes the train home. When he arrives, he discovers that his mother has cancer. He feels strange being back at home, and avoids talking to people about the war, because it is clear to him that they don't understand what is going on. He finds out from an old classmate that Kantorek, his teacher, has been drafted as a soldier. He visits Kemmerich's mother, who cries and begs him to tell her about her son's death. Paul spends more time with his mother, but by the time he leaves for training, he regrets having gone home at all because he is miserable.
During training, he spends most of his time watching the Russian prisoners encamped next to the training camp. He feels sorry for them because they are just soldiers like himself. After a month, his father and sister visit him and tell him that his mother is in the hospital getting an operation. He returns to the front with a heavy heart.
Back at the front, Paul fears that leave has made him soft, and is scared of the war around him. He ends up trapped in a hole during shelling, and then kills an enemy soldier with his knife. He is very upset because he knows that he has killed another human being, but he pushes the feelings away.
He and his comrades guard a bombed-out, deserted village for a few weeks, and live happily cooking for themselves. Next, they are sent to evacuate a village, where Paul and his friend Albert are both wounded. They are sent to the hospital by train, where Paul is fixed up. Albert, on the other hand, loses his leg. They spend a long time there healing, and befriend other soldiers in their room. While there, Paul walks around the hallways and sees all of the death and destruction going on, and realizes that his hospital is just one of thousands like it, full of dying boys. He is overwhelmed by the hopelessness of war.
Paul is sent back to the front, where many of his friends have been killed or get killed soon after he arrives. Finally, on a hot summer day, Kat is hit. Paul picks him up and carries him to safety, but it is too late--a splinter from a grenade is stuck in Kat's head, and he has died. Paul is now the last of his comrades. A few months later, with talk of peace going on around him, Paul gives up and dies, with a look of relief on his face.