We talked about this theme in class on Tuesday and I have found it recurring throughout the book so far. One scene that really interested me was when Paul told Kemmerich’s mother that her son had died. I find it very contradicting that he acts in an indifferent way yet he seems to show compassion. Kemmerich was a close friend of his and it greatly saddened him when he died. He even felt bad for his mother and took it upon himself to tell her. Not only does he tell her but he also lies to her about how he died to hopefully reduce even a bit of the anguish that she feels. Yet there is a part of him that cannot understand why she is worried even though he is dead. He has a hard time valuing the individual as an actual person because he has seen so many people die in this war. He has become so used to this that he has detached himself. It is ironic because I feel that if he is truly and completely desensitized he would not show such compassion not only in this scene but in others. There is still that humane part of him that the war has not completely taken away from him but at the same time he is a changed man.
For him his indifferent side and compassionate side are in constant conflict with each other. Part of the reason for his indifference seems to be that he uses it as a coping mechanism because if he were to let his emotions overcome him, he would not last in war. Yet at the same time we see throughout the book him acting as a maternal figure towards other soldiers. In this particular scene, he is probably indifferent for two reasons. One because as stated earlier he has become desensitized but also it could be that he does not want to relive through that terrible moment of watching his friend die and therefore becomes impatient with the mother for repeatedly asking him about Kemmerich’s death.
As I said earlier I just found it interesting how there seem to be two sides to Paul so I just wanted to throw a couple of ideas out there.