31 Oct. 2011
Don’t Let the Bullets Define You
“On the threshold of life, they faced an abyss of death.” Voted the greatest war novel of all time All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, the main character Paul Bäumer shows subtle changes in his character. Barely an adult Paul heads off to fight in the war, trying to maintain his mental stability and not let the chaos of the war affect him. Paul Bäumer starts as a stage three then stays in stage four, the Conventional Level in Dr. Lawrence Kolberg’s Theory of Moral Development. Towards the end of the book he grabs onto the heel of stage 5 in Level 3, post conventional. Dr. Lawrence Kolberg believes that “as one’s intelligence and ability to interact with others matures, so does one’s patterns of moral behavior” (Foigel). There are three levels of moral development each level containing two stages which goes into further explanation. Although Paul Bäumer does a small yet critical amount of growing, but since he started so high morally there was not much growing to do; he never let the stress of war define him.
You cannot jump stages, only progress to the next stage (Foigel). Paul Bäumer does just that. He starts as a simple stage three with the beginning of the story. When a couple of the other soldiers get together in a decision to attack Himmelstoss, Paul agrees with no legitimate reason. When Kropp brings up Himmelstoss’s change when he received a place of higher authority in the military Paul responds by stating, “That’s the uniform.” (43) He understands why Himmelstoss acts the way he does, yet he participates on the action of attacking him without reason placing him in stage 3. He wants to “fit in” even though he clearly “knows right from wrong” (Foigel). After Kemmerich dies a slow painful death with an amputated leg Paul must tell Kemmerich’s mother of the horrible news. He tells her a faux story of how he died instantaneously and...