Ethics of Confucius through the eyes of Paul Bäumer

At the heart of Confucian philosophy lies a steadfast devotion to ethics and morality. Through the teachings of this revered philosopher, we can analyze the character of Paul, a young soldier thrust into the horrors of war in Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Confucius believed in the power of self-improvement through education, insisting that an individual’s moral fiber should form the bedrock of their actions. In stark contrast, Paul is a naive youth who, at the tender age of twenty, finds himself fighting in the German army during World War I, with little choice but to join the ranks. The atrocities of war force Paul to confront the very foundations of his ethics and morality, leading to a profound transformation of his character.

Initially, Paul is a quiet, unassuming student who views the war through the lens of propaganda fed to him by his teachers. Although he harbors no desire to hurt others, he feels compelled to join the war effort for the sake of his country. As he embarks on this perilous journey, he soon discovers that the reality of war is far different from the romanticized notions he once held. In Chapter 2, Paul laments, “We had thought our mission would be different, but instead, we were trained to be heroes like circus ponies.” This somber reflection underscores the stark contrast between the idealized vision of war and the brutal reality of its true nature.

Confucius believed in the transformative power of incremental self-improvement, stating, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Paul’s character arc in the novel exemplifies this philosophy, as he gradually gains a more profound understanding of the world around him and the impact of war on humanity. He comes to realize that war is not a heroic endeavor, but a brutal and senseless waste of human life. In Chapter 6, Paul reflects on the change he has undergone, saying, “We have become wild beasts. We don’t fight, but defend ourselves against annihilation.” This sobering realization demonstrates how the violence of war can transform even the most innocent of souls into savage, animalistic beings, fighting only for their own survival.

Despite the many setbacks he experiences, including the loss of close friends and the shattering of his innocence, Paul continues to maintain his sense of morality and ethics. Confucius believed that true glory comes not from never falling, but from getting up each time one does. Paul embodies this philosophy, struggling to retain his moral compass even as the world around him crumbles. In Chapter 6, Paul bemoans, “We are forlorn like children, but experienced like old men. We are crude and sorrowful and superficial. I believe we are lost.” Despite this overwhelming sense of despair, Paul continues to strive towards what is right, seeking to protect those around him even as the world around him crumbles.

Finally, Confucius believed that individuals should not harbor grudges or dwell on negative experiences. He insisted, “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” Paul undergoes many traumatic experiences during his time in the war, including the loss of dear friends and the shattering of his innocence. Despite these hardships, he strives to move beyond them, seeking to find meaning in the midst of the chaos and destruction around him.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s