All Quiet on the Western Front

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
The former schoolteacher of Paul¸ Albert Kropp, Leer, and Joseph Behm. Kantorek pressured his students to enlist in the army and inspired them with nationalist rhetoric. Paul and his friends had trusted Kantorek because to them he appeared cultured and civilized, but what they found most persuasive about him was the “idea of authority” that he represented. Interestingly, Paul notes that it was members of the educated upper classes like Kantorek who were most in favor of the war, while poor and simple people were the most opposed.

Kantorek Quotes in All Quiet on the Western Front

The All Quiet on the Western Front quotes below are all either spoken by Kantorek or refer to Kantorek. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Ballantine Books edition of All Quiet on the Western Front published in 1987.
Chapter 1 Quotes

There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced that they were acting for the best—in a way that cost them nothing. And that is why they let us down so badly. For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress—to the future…The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Kantorek
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Paul recounts how he and his schoolmates entered the army through the provocations of a teacher named Kantorek. This memory spurs a reflection on the way that many other young men were recruited to the army.

The story of Kantorek addresses an essential question in the organization of war efforts: how youth are recruited to a cause they would otherwise find repulsive. Paul explains that the authority vested in an older schoolteacher allowed Kantorek to convince them that “progress” and the “future” would be best reached by their joining the army. That is to say, the mentorship role of a teacher granted Kantorek increased his moral and advisory power over his students. Yet Paul is careful to point out that he did not operate with malicious intentions, but rather was certain to be “acting for the best.” Thus the authority power structure is presented not as a group of individual agents acting maliciously, but rather the result of a larger social system of proud, patriotic older men sending younger men to die in wars the older men have started.

That “there were thousands of Kantoreks” speaks to the universality of these soldiers’ experience, presenting the text as a microcosm for what was happening in broader German society. Kantorek's individual character turns first into a “they” and then into “the idea of authority,” growing increasingly broad and representational. Similarly, their small group of soldiers becomes “our generation.” Often Remarque will use phrases like these to broaden the scope of the novel, to transform a single realist tale into an account of a cultural paradigm.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other All Quiet on the Western Front quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Get the entire All Quiet on the Western... LitChart as a printable PDF.
All quiet on the western front.pdf.medium

Kantorek Character Timeline in All Quiet on the Western Front

The timeline below shows where the character Kantorek appears in All Quiet on the Western Front. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Comradeship Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of the Older Generation Theme Icon
...home. One of the soldiers, Albert Kropp, has received a letter from his former teacher, Kantorek. We learn that four of the men were schoolmates back in Germany: Paul; the clear-headed... (full context)
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of the Older Generation Theme Icon
Paul says that there were “thousands of Kantoreks” in Germany: people who believed they were doing the right thing by encouraging young men... (full context)
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Comradeship Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of the Older Generation Theme Icon
...his cigarette and swearing. Müller tries to distract him by asking about the contents of Kantorek’s letter. (full context)
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Comradeship Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of the Older Generation Theme Icon
Kropp tells them that Kantorek’s letter calls his former students the “Iron Youth,” a title that makes the men smile... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
...out of twenty are either dead, wounded, or in a mad-house. The men then imitate Kantorek and quiz each other on scholarly knowledge, which they conclude is useless to them on... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of the Older Generation Theme Icon
Paul goes to visit Mittelstaedt at the barracks, and discovers that Kantorek has been given a role as a subordinate officer to Mittelstaedt. Mittelstaedt tells Paul that... (full context)