You first meet all of the characters from a German platoon during World War I. They all have different personalities, but most of them share one. Most of the soldiers are in their late teens or early twenties. Except for one, who is in his forties. All of them have known each other for a short amount of time, but yet, they are willing to fight, and to die together in this war. I wonder if the reason they became so close to each other was because they were fighting for their lives together. They need to know that they can trust each other in this war; they need to know they have a friend. This piece affected me in a way that I feel I have not experienced before. In other war novels I have read, they were great books but they were different than this book.
In this book, you get pulled in right away because the first chapter pretty much introduces all of the characters to you. It makes you feel like you were a new recruit in this platoon and that they were the ones that you would be fighting and living with. But, still, these questions linger. Why do we fight? Why do we kill? Is it a part of who we are, are we born killers, or are we shaped into killers? Or, maybe we are just forced to be killers. But, on the battlefield, you do kill with a cost. Every soul you take on the battlefield there is a chance that somebody else will claim yours. But is that really the cost you might pay? Or is the cost just that every time you claim somebody else's soul, it warps your own.
Some say that you decide your own fate, but not here, not on the western front. Out on the western front, you have your specific time, and when that time comes you have no choice to accept it. You do not control your fate, the western front does. It controls when you die, when it does not need you to fight anymore. The western front can turn man, into monster, but it can also work in reverse and turn a monster into a man. Even if your fate is the day before the war ends, a day before you get to go home and see your family, you must accept your time to die, even if it is at the worst time; and if you do survive, don't consider yourself lucky, consider yourself spared by the front.
The book also does such an amazing job describing the ways of the war, but in my eyes, all I see is that every soldier is a pawn in the war, it all plays its certain part, not questioning whether its right or not, just going along with the war. In chess, pawns are the most popular piece that you would sacrifice, on the western front, so many people were sacrificed, just pawns of the war, doing their job.