All Quiet on the Western Front

In what ways does the novel critique the romantic rhetoric of war, honor, and patriotism? How might this critique extend to nineteenth-century ideas of nationalism? Think especially about the soldier’s reaction to Kantorek’s letter

I believe the letter is in the beginning

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Kantorek personifies this generally insidious nationalism. He bullies the youth into joining the war, and they do so out of fear of being ostracized as a coward. Once they are in the war, he and others keep them there with grandiose talk of country and duty. However, as Paul bitterly reflects, Kantorek and his kind are not the ones fighting and dying.

Moreover, the young soldiers are not the "Iron Youth" Kantorek believes them to be. Death has aged them considerably. They no longer trust their elders, and the world now seems much more cruel and hard. WWI was the first truly "modern" war; new technologies and tactics like tanks, chemical gas, and trench warfare brutalized soldiers in unprecedented ways. Approximately nine million men were killed (not including those from Russia, which is estimated to have lost six million soldiers); Germany accounted for nearly two million of these casualties. Roughly half of the 70 million men and women serving in the war were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

Source(s)

http://www.gradesaver.com/all-quiet-on-the-western-front/study-guide/section1/