Paul Baumer kills human beings.
Paul Baumer is asked to take men’s lives away from them. This power to kill is not good for a young boy of 20. These boys are innocent and in their hands is put a gun that has more power than ever before placed in their hands. “We know how to do that: to play cards, to swear, and to fight. Not much for twenty years; —and yet to much for twenty years.” This quote talks about how these boys are way over their heads. Too much has happened to them for them to be able to control it. The innocence and ability for the boys to have fun and be safe is gone. Every minute could be your last. Twenty years old and already confronted with to much power. This destroys Paul’s character and makes him colder. He still has hope when around friends, but he begins to see just how awful the sacrifice of human life is in war. His whole thought and mind is about how to survive and in order to survive, a man must kill in war. This is so sad because the human mind should never kill just to gain. If killing is a must, it should bring more than just a few more scraps of bread. The power that is pressed into Paul and his friends’ hand is the greatest test that they will ever face. This power destroys them from the inside and ruins their lives. They are standing up to adversity, but it is in the wrong way. This forced power is hurting them without Paul and comrades even realizing it. And therefore, they are truly failing to the test that power offers.
Paul’s father and the men in the beer garden have power that tests them also. Their power is their influence over soldiers. Paul is the men’s main target. They wish to tell him how great the war is going even though it is Paul, not them, that is doing the fighting. This is important because Paul has grown up listening to these men. Their ideas are spun in his head and before fighting, Paul may have even believed them to be fact. But now, having seen that war is not honorable or glorified, he is resentful of these ideas. However, these men have power in that they can try to influence someone. One ring leader “dismisses the idea loftily and informs me I know nothing about it. ‘The details yes,’ says he, ‘but this relates to the whole.’” It is interesting that, in this man’s view, the man who is fighting is less capable of knowing about the war than the man who is not fighting. The man does this because it is his only power. Without the ability to try and talk Paul out of defeat, he cannot truly fight his own war. This man’s character is damaged because he gives into power and is losing control over himself. He has become corrupted by power and does not deserve to talk with such authority. All of the men in the beer garden, as well as Paul’s own father, are unable to control themselves and stop using power to influence soldiers.
Where does Paul’s ability to hold a gun come from? Who tells him to kill? The leaders of the country. They have the greatest power ever because they can dish out power. They are allowed to tell men and boys when to kill and when to stop. “‘But what I would like to know,’ says Albert, ‘is whether there would not have been a war if the Kaiser had said No.’” A single man, or a least a small group, have the power to save or destroy hundreds of thoughts of lives. With one decision, Paul would never have had to fight or kill and his innocence would still be intact. This power should never be placed in a man because it is really a test. And the bad thing is that most men fail. They are overwhelmed by the ability to decide that they lose themselves in the process. If Kaiser had changed his mind, there is a great chance that the war may have been considerably shorter or maybe not at all. However, in order to glorify himself, it happened. Is it so great a need, that a single person must leave the world of reason and enter one that is revolving around themselves? The leaders of Germany think of this a great idea. An idea where the fight goes well and is being fought for a good reason. Power is strange, it can be used to help others, but when used wrongly, the result is disastrous and many people can be hurt. This is what happened when Paul and his young friends where given a gun and told to shoot. They lost all sense and hope in the world. It murdered their want and desire to life. This could have been stopped if the government had stopped it. Power tested these mean and when it came out, the men have bad moral and worse conscience. They had failed the test of power and their character was suffering as a result.
Paul has the power to save a memory. This power is the most difficult to use. Paul is in the bunker with a man dying slowly. It is here that he sees how his killing affects others. “This is the first time I have killed with my hands, whom, I can see close at hand, whose death is my doing.” He has finally realized that having power is not the best thing. This is the burden that he will carry every time he shoots his gun. His thinks about how it an awful thing to kill. And I believe that in this scene, Paul reaches the ultimate decision to not want to kill. When he thinks about the man’s wife and how the soldier wrote to her. How,
“To-morrow, in a week’s time—perhaps even a stray letter a month’s hence. She will read it, and in it he will be speaking to her,” Paul understands that this man will die but it is Paul’s power to try and save as many lives fro the awful destruction of war, starting with this man. Paul must try to help he and his friends survive. This power is a huge importance because it can decide how Paul deals with his comrades and enemies. His character is important to preserve and he passes the test of dealing with power to have a positive outcome.