All Quiet on the Western Front demonstrates to me the tragedy of war when young men are sent off to battle. At a very young age these men were forced into military training and battle; forced to live without any contact with their families; forced to live isolated from others, and forced to sacrifice all they had for the good of their country. These things led to the premature aging and loss of connection with family with most of the characters in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front. I found the young men in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front were expected to take part in military training and battle. When the boys were in school the teacher would try very hard to persuade them to join the army.
Most of the boys would listen to their teacher and fight. Paul, the main character in the novel, realizes once he had reached the front, how betrayed he had been by his teacher and the older generation. He said, The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. This bitter quote shows that after the war is over their generation does not know what will be left for them. The characters felt betrayed. This idea of betrayal is dominant in the loss of war.
Even though they may be able to go home after the war is over, they will constantly have to fight themselves. Another force that led to the loss of innocence at the front was the things that the boys were learning. They refer to themselves as stone aged veterans even though they are only twenty. The young men learn things such as how to properly stab a man and that a shovel is much more effective weapon than a bayonet because it does not get stuck. The effects that these experiences have on a young mind are terrible.
Once these boys started thinking of themselves as stone aged veterans, that is what they became. They grew farther and farther apart from the life that they once knew. The life that the soldiers once had at home was probably a good one. When many returned home they had trouble relating to what was going on because they had lost that connection with their family.
When Paul returned home, he experienced something like this. He stepped into his home and was greeted by his sister. When his sister went to get his mother, he froze. Paul says, and so I stand on these steps, miserable, helpless, paralyzed and against my will the tears run down my cheeks. Paul had become merely a soldier; a government robot and he was beginning to realize how stupid what he and the rest of the soldiers were doing was. Paul realized he had left another place that he had called home, the front.
He also realized that he had become so caught up in the war that he had forgotten what was truly important, his family. He had taken the other soldiers in as a surrogate family, one to replace the family he had had left behind and he was not sure if he was ready to return to his true family. When Paul got past his trouble he returned to his room and dressed in his civilian clothes. He said, This suit is rather tight and short.
I have grown in the army. This growth can be recognized two ways, the first way is physically and the second is metaphorically. The growth in the army is a metaphor for his growth in life and understanding that he is no longer a child; that he no longer is as innocent as he once was. Paul had realized that he was separated from his former life and that his leave had made him more aware of this.
At the end of Paul's leave he said to himself, I ought never to have come here. Out there I was indifferent and often hopeless-I will never be able to be so again. Paul knew that he should never have taken leave. He knew that he was only a soldier and that was all he would ever be. He also realized that he has been robbed of his true family and of his life. This is what he was really upset about.
The isolation that the characters in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front experienced was a main cause for their loss of innocence. If it were not for the comradeship with the other men in their unit all the soldiers would have been totally alone. Upon Paul's return to his unit he said, This is where I belong and he truly believed this. He thought that the only friends that he had in the world were the men in his unit and those were the only people he could trust. This clearly shows that he had separated from his family and that he could never return to them in the same capacity as before. It also makes the reader realize that this boy has truly become a man before he should have.
This isolation also affects the soldiers by making them feel as if they were totally alone in the world. It forces boys to become men too early. When Paul was stripped of his very best friend, Kat, he realized that he was alone. Paul said, Katczinsky has died.
Then I know nothing more. He knew nothing more of Kat. He knew that he was going to have to go about this war all by himself now and that he had better grow to compensate for it. Many incidences like this are what cause the loss of innocence in the soldiers. The soldiers were taught to believe that to win meant everything. This led many young men to go out and give everything they had including their youth and family for the good of the country.
Paul Baume r was one of the many young men that sacrificed his youth and family because that was what was expected to do. Paul said, I cannot comprehend it anymore. Our early life is cut off from the moment we came here. This is when Paul realized how pointless the war was. He realized that they were fighting someone else's battle, and that he had no place there. He could no longer comprehend the stupidity of fighting this war.
After this he said, Once it was different. When we went to enlist, we were a class of twenty young men, many of whom proudly shaved for the first time before going to the barracks. This is when Paul realized that he and the other soldiers had been brainwashed into believing that fighting the war was the best thing for them to do. They were young and unsuspecting and they had been fooled. Paul and the rest of the soldiers had realized that what they were doing had caused them to lose their youth and family. Many things affected the lives of the young men in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front and led to their premature aging and loss of family.
They were pushed into military training and battle; pushed into living without contact with their family; pushed into isolation from others, and pushed into sacrificing all they had for the good of the country.