All Quiet on the Western Front (Personal Response)

Upon reading All Quiet on the Western Front. I found it fascinating how Erich Remarque was able to depict the horrors of war, and display them in a perspective which I had not heard before. The book describes how the war destroyed an entire generation with its horrific brutality. An example of this is when Paul Bäumer says;

We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial—I believe we are lost.” p.123

Paul says “we are forlorn like children” because the war had destroyed the very foundation on which their childhood was based on. It’s as if they are restarting their lives over again learning to understand the new world and learning to perceive the different ideas and parameters of war. He then says they are “experienced like old men”. Paul says this because they had seen horrific things so much so that it has taken away all of their innocence. “we are crude and sorrowful and superficial”, they are rude and rough, sad and they are shallow. Paul then says “I believe we are lost” meaning him and his fellow soldiers are not the same boys they once were.

Another fascinating thing I find about the book is how Remarque was able to include a common outcome of the war, loss of identity, not being able to settle into the life they once had.

“I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and today. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had only been in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here anymore, it is a foreign world.” P. 168

No matter how bad the war was, Paul had adapted to life on the front lines. As he returned home Paul had realized that life will never be the same. He is able to see how the war stripped him of his childhood and innocence. Life on the front lines had become his new ‘normal’. I am astounded at how one can become so disconnected from his childhood and that the only place that felt like home were the trenches.

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