Bombardment

In chapter 4 of All Quiet on the Western Front, the soldiers end up hiding in a graveyard of fallen soldiers when they are attacked by a bombardment of shells. At the end of the chapter, the narrator (Paul) and his friend Kat find another soldier who has had his hip blasted by a shell into shards, leaving it a giant, minced mess. The two start to help the man; however, Kat brings up the idea of shooting the man to put him out of his misery and Paul ends up agreeing. However, they end up not doing it because they find they are surrounded then by other people.

This part surprised me at first; however, I could later understand why they would do it as most of the people that got an injury like that back then would not survive. They even comment that he will never be able to walk again. However, even though I do agree, I do not believe that I would be able to shoot a man in the head to put them out of their misery, such as with an animal. And I am not certain I would end up agreeing to shoot the man as Paul did. I wanted to know, would you be willing to shoot the man? Why or why not? And if not, is it because you disagree with Paul’s decision or do you understand why he agreed?

6 thoughts on “Bombardment

  1. I understand perfectly why he agreed, Kat seems much wiser and knowledgeable, i’d trust him too. Also, at that time, he really didn’t have much of a chance at all after a wound like that. So I get why they would want to put him out of his misery.
    I understand why they didn’t shoot though, so many people where around and that would have hit hard to the moral of the people injured and shell-shocked by the recent fight. They would have thought “Hell, why don’t we all do that? The English/French are just going to do that to use anyway.” or “I’m injured too. Does that mean i’m just as good as dead?” The decision not to shoot the man was a very wise one for the sake of the rest of the army, however, I doubt that man had much of a life after that.
    That being said, I would not have the heart to kill another human being, whether they would be put out of their misery or not. I would need constant verbal commands from the injured person in order to even come close and even then, I really don’t know if I could.

  2. The concept of mercy killings is definitively a murky subject. It’s hard to say if I could or could not kill someone, given the horrors of war. What I got so far from reading ahead is that Paul and the men, to some extent, become desensitized or have to shut off the thinking process behind the war. They stop viewing men as individuals. He repeats over and over the idea that how could they possibly save everyone, bring everyone back? They do what they can, but there is just an avalanche of death and destruction. I think if I were the wounded soldier, I would want an easy death versus potentially dying slowly and alone. However, I don’t know if I really could respond with any certainty about being the person who commits a mercy killing.

  3. I’m going to go off of something that you stated: putting someone out of their misery almost like an animal. This to me shows the desensitization that the men went through when it comes to combat and to war. They see this man as a comrade but also as someone that is not weaker than them and could be a liability. It makes me think of how if a horse breaks its leg, it is shot because it is no longer useful to the men who are fighting. This horse can no longer perform their duties and therefore, they are disposed of and replace with another, and normally a younger, horse. In this case, if they were to just put this man out of his suffering since he probably would not survive this injury and if he did he would provide no help continuing on during the war, and his death will lead to his replacement of another man who will perform his duties since he no longer can.

  4. I would have done it. The battle could have turned in a way that they had to abandon their shelter and run for another hiding place. What would you choose in a moment when you don’t know what is going to happen next? They knew they couldn’t take him with them if they had to run. Medics simply couldn’t handle the totality of all injuries and calling for support to get the man out of there wasn’t an option. Slow death with all unknown possibilities, or a mercy killing that gives them a chance to survive and recognizes that the war demands multiple sacrifices on every human/humane/inhuman level

  5. I understand their logic- they have desensitived by all that has gone on and also may feel that they would be doing a favor to put their comrade out of his misery. But at the same time, I do not know if I would be able to make that decision. I feel this way for a few reasons. To start, I have thankfully never been in war or scenario where I was presented with this type of dilemna. While this is likely the case for most, if not all of us, I feel it is still important for me to reference because as someone who typically likes to make decisions based off of experiences, that is an option that is not available in this case. As a result, I cannot picture what I would do. On the one hand, I feel like it might have been for the best that they were able to put the soldier out of his misery. But on the other, I do not believe I would ever have the heart to kill anyone. This type of dilemna really goes to show the level of desensitization and horror that the soldiers on both sides of the war had to go through.

  6. I wouldn’t have done it. However, I say this as someone who does not support war and as someone who has never engaged in a similar type of conflict. If I had been in the same situation, I’m not sure if I’d have the same reaction. I think a lot of the book hinges on the idea of the bildungsroman, but not in the traditional sense. It seems as though the book is talking about a coming-of-age in terms of losing innocence, becoming less human. With that being said, it’s almost as if as being as deep in the war-mindset as Paul was there was no real option between killing the man and letting him live. If I was Paul, I’m sure I would’ve viewed it the same way.

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