All Quiet on the Western Front: Metaphor Analysis
Symbols - Kemmerich's Boots
Imagery of Nature and Culture
In addition to the butterflies, Paul watches the larks ascending every morning from No Man's Land (No Man's Land was the area between the rival trenches.) This is another image of nature's beauty. The lark is a positive image of life reawakening in the morning. As Shakespeare puts it in one of his sonnets, the lark "sings hymns at heaven's gate." Used here, the image of the lark brings out the contrast between the ever-renewing energies of nature and the destructive energy of man.
Another image of the peace and beauty of nature comes when Paul observes a line of birch trees at the training camp he is sent to after his leave is over. He becomes so lost in the play of light and shadow in the trees that he almost fails to hear the commands given him during military drills.
The blossoming cherry tree that Detering sees near where the troops are billeted toward the end of the war, is another image that represents spring and returning life. It an overwhelmingly powerful image for Detering since it reminds him of his orchard at home. But as with the other positive images of nature, this image does not lead to rebirth, or to anything positive at all. It merely causes Detering to lose his judgment and go AWOL, so desperate is he to return home.
Another powerful image is of the violin played by the Russian prisoner. The violin represents the remnants of Western culture, which has been virtually annihilated during the four years of war. Not surprisingly, the image possesses a poignant quality: "In the night it is so thin it sounds frozen. . . it makes a man grow sad."