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Himmelstoss, " had the reputation of being the strictest disciplinarian in the camp, and was proud of it." (Page 26) It is apparent that he liked what he did, and that was to discipline soldiers. Himmelstoss trained the soldiers in the fields so they can be ready for whatever was in store for them at the front lines. One disciplined training activity was advance and lie down on the order of the Corporal. The soldiers were trained until they became, "one lump of mud and [they] finally collapsed." (Page 26) The reason for this practice was to make the soldier fit and to have high stamina in the battlefield. The soldiers under Himmelstoss' discipline learnt to become, " hard, suspicious, pitiless, vicious, tough and that was good; for these attributes were just what we (soldiers) lacked." (Page 29) It does not matter how acute and severe the discipline training was for the soldiers at least they are satisfied of what they have learnt and also I am intrigued by this quality the Corporal had because in the army the soldiers are suppose to be trained through discipline and if I were in this environment, I believe a strict disciplinary would only discipline me.
In addition, the brutal trait of the Corporal is revealed is when he makes his student soldiers do chores that are just savage. For example, he makes Paul remake, " his bed fourteen times in one morning. Each time he had some fault to find." (Page 26) It shows how brutal a man can be that a bed has to be made fourteen times and each time there is something wrong with it. Moreover, Himmelstoss has made Paul knead, " a pair of prehistoric boots that were as hard as iron for twenty hours.
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Finally, the sympathetic quality of Corporal Himmelstoss is discovered when he changes form a malevolent to a benevolent person. This change occurs when he is sent out in the trenches with his soldiers. The alteration in behavior is sighted first when he treats Paul and his crew, " in the canteen when [they] are out of funds." (Page 120) It can be determined that the stern Corporal is showing a softer side in his character. He is helping the same soldiers who he gave a hard time to. Also, the changed Himmelstoss gives, " two pounds of sugar for [Paul and his group] and a half-pound of butter especially for Tjaden." (Page 120) Himmelstoss all of a sudden is being considerate and pleasing to the same soldiers that he once loved to discipline. His decision to be kind to his fellow soldiers was due to the feeling of guilt he had; he himself had the opportunity to see the hardship the soldiers encumbered in the front lines.
Corporal Himmelstoss has encountered several changes in his life. First, being a postman and then working himself up to a position as a Corporal in the army. Once he become a Corporal a new person was generated, which illustrated how an individual took advantage of their position and power, in the army. He enjoyed the pain and suffering that he inflicted towards soldiers. Through his disciplinary tactics and cruel mentality. Yet the tables were turned when he was sent to be on the frontlines with the soldiers. Where he has a chance to see what the frontlines look like, this is where the fickle characteristics disappear in Himmelstoss. Himmelstoss changes his behavior into a friendly and helpful person when he becomes Sergeant Cook. Postmaster Himmelstoss, Corporal Himmelstoss, or Sergeant Cook Himmelstoss this character changes incredibly throughout the book and it makes the reader to ponder deeply what the effect of war can do on a simple human being.
One instance I can relate to Himmelstoss is when my kabadi coach in India used to make me do excessive squats and I used to wonder why does he do this to me. I used to feel upset, but not hate him for this but each time I use to do a squat my leg muscles were developing and I was getting fit. Each time when I used to come late or do a foolish mistake I use to be punished doing fifty squats in one minute and if the target is not reached I had to do one hundred. By doing the squats a couple of times in front of others I stopped doing foolish mistakes and I started to come to practice five in the morning. I learnt that I should leave my house early for kabadi practice and I think from that time on I was never late to do anything except for coming to my English class couple of times late and for handing in this essay. I think I need my kabadi coach here in Vancouver so he can discipline me again and make me do more squats.