All Quiet On The Western Front: Destroying A Generation Of Men

1154 words - 5 pages

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Remarque, is a classic anti-war novel about the personal struggles and experiences encountered by a group of young German soldiers as they fight to survive the horrors of World War One. Remarque demonstrates, through the eyes of Paul Baumer, a young German soldier, how the war destroyed an entire generation of men by making them incapable of reintegrating into society because they could no longer relate to older generations, only to fellow soldiers.

Paul believed the older generation "...ought to be mediators and guides to the world... to the future. / The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in [their] minds with greater insight and a more humane wisdom." Paul, his classmates, and a majority of their vulnerable generation completely trusted their role models and because of that trust were influenced and pressured into joining the war. They believed the older generation understood the truth behind war and would never send them to a dangerous or inhumane situation, "...but the first death [they] saw shattered this belief." The death caused the soldiers to realize that the experiences of their generation were more in line with reality than those of the older generation and that created a gap between the two. "While [the older generation] continued to write and talk, [Paul's generation] saw the wounded and dying. / While [the older generation] taught that duty to one's country is the greatest thing, [Paul's] already knew that death-throes are stronger."

 The older generation had an artificial illusion of what war is and although Paul's generation, the soldiers, loved their country, they were forced to distinguish reality from illusion. Because of this distinction, Paul's generation felt terribly alone and separated from society outside of the battlefield. This separation from society is demonstrated when Paul goes home on leave. When he is reunited with his mother "[they] say very little," but when she finally asks him if it was "very bad out there" Paul lies. In trying to protect her by lying, Paul creates a separation between his mother and himself. As Paul sees it, the tragedies and horrors of war are not for the uninitiated. Sadly, the true nature of war further separates the two generations.

While on leave, Paul also visits his father and some of his father's friends, but does not wish to speak to them about the war. The men are "curious [about the war] in a way that [Paul finds] stupid and distressing." They try to imagine what war is like but they have never experienced it for themselves, so they cannot see the reality of it. When Paul tries to state his opinion, the men argue that "[he] sees only [his] general sector so [he is] not able to judge." These men believe they know more about the war and this makes Paul feel lost. He realizes that "they are different men here, men [he] can not understand..." and Paul wants to be back with those he can relate to, his...

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