All Quiet on the Western Front: Youth at War Essay

All Quiet on the Western Front: Youth at War Essay

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All Quiet on the Western Front: The Youth at War
Lost: unable to find one’s way; gone, no longer in existence; confused; destroyed; lacking morals, or spiritual hope; forlorn.(Encarta Dictionary) The word lost takes on a whole new, three-dimensional meaning when used to describe a generation of young soldiers in Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. This fictional account of the First World War traces its effects on the protagonist, Paul Baumer, and his German comrades. As written in the preface, the novel is an attempt “to tell of a generation of men, who even though they may have escaped the shells, were destroyed by the war”. The author of All Quiet on the Western Front utilizes the brutality of war to demonstrate how young enlisters, as they become alienated from their past and future, learn of war’s terrible effects and consequences.
All Quiet on the Western Front details the time spent by a group of young German soldiers on the front lines of the Great War. The protagonist, Paul Baumer, along with his schoolmates, Muller Leer and Albert Kropp, enlist in the army at the ripe age of eighteen. Their fellow soldiers: Tjaden, Haier Westhus, Detering, and Katczinsky (Kat), whom they quickly form a bond of comradeship with, experience the same hopelessness as Paul and his schoolmates. Remarque introduces Paul and the other characters as cynical soldiers lacking the ability to reconnect with humanity because of the harshness of combat. Due to their current emotional state, the young soldiers are alienated from memories of their past. Upon his return home on leave, Paul discovers that he is not only disconnected from the world he left behind, but also incapable of regenerating a desire to live life. As a...


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Remarque uses the contrast between the older generations of soldiers, schoolmasters, and men with higher military rank to convey how the youth at war are more negatively affected. As Barker and Last conclude, “ only the older generation, like Kat, will be able to slip back more or less unscarred into civil life....”(82) Paul argues that the older generation “represented the world of maturity” that was “associated with greater insight and a more humane wisdom.”(Remarque 12-3) However, this ideal in which their elders signified was quickly shattered by the reality of war. Remarque conveys in his book that the older generation had suffered less because the war was a mere “interruption”, the young men, in contrast, “have been gripped by it and do not know what the end maybe. We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a wasteland.” (20)

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