Kantorek's Influence on the Characters in All Quiet on the Western Front

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Kantorek, the former school master of many of the novel's characters, is described as “a stern little man”, and although his physical presence is of little consequence to the novel’s development his actions influence many of the characters in their thoughts and actions. His fiery and impassioned speeches to his class influenced all of them to join the army, leading to their inevitable dooms. The ideas he preached on nationalism and one’s duty to his country were a glorious mask for the true, atrocious nature of war. The doom of innumerable men in the “great” war. The whole of Paul Bäumer’s class joined the army voluntarily due to Kantorek’s rhetoric on nationalism. National pride is portrayed as outdated and only useful for national …show more content…
Paul seems to take away a sadistic satisfaction at Kantorek being drafted. Yet even with knowledge of the horrors of war none of the boys could have done anything as the entire populace was enflamed with the same nationalism. The one boy who hesitated was, ironically, the first to be slain. This is all part of Remarque’s critique of unbridled and blind patriotism. It is portrayed that no one is safe on the front for any reason, and it places much of the cause of the slaughter on men like Kantorek. As the novel progresses the boys (now men) become increasingly repulsed by Kantorek’s rhetoric, laughing at his phrases like “the iron youth”, Kantorek‘s passion becomes little more than a joke to the men. Mittelstaedt, a former student of Kantorek and one of Paul’s classmates, was a training officer when Kantorek was conscripted, and he took every chance to hurt and humiliate the man who he and the others felt had betrayed them. This feeling of betrayal affects Paul and all of his schoolmates, they feel as though the older generation is untrustworthy. They become more cynical and begin lose faith in their country. Kantorek and his real world equivalents stood for dying ideals that were shattered the first time men like Paul went into combat. Though they did not think it at the time Kantorek and his ilk sent many thousands of people to their deaths at the front. The ideals of nationalism which Kantorek stood for died with many of the men on the battlefields of

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