All Quite On The Western Front Generation

All Quite On The Western Front (Generation Gap) Essay, Research Paper

"I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair,

death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how

people are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly,

obediently, innocently slay one another. I see that the keenest brains of the

world invent weapons and words to make it yet more refined and enduring. And all

men of my age, here and over there, throughout the whole world see these things.

All my generation is experiencing these things with me?" 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 Bдumer, 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 so-called 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 fellow soldiers. Paul wishes he had

never gone on leave because out there "[he] was a soldier, but [at home] he

is nothing but an agony to himself." When Paul returns to the battlefield,

he is excited to be with his comrades. When he sees his company, "[Paul]

jumps up, pushes in amongst them, [his] eyes searching," until he finds his

friends. It is then that Paul knows that "this is where [he] belongs."

The illusions held by the older generations perception of war differed from the

reality of war that Paul’s generation experienced, and this difference made Paul

feel that the two generations had separated. This feeling caused Paul to realize

that he related only to the soldiers because they have had a strong bond since

the beginning of the war and have grown together. Since the "rubbish"

they learned in school has "?never been the slightest use to [them]"

they were forced to turn to each other for knowledge. At boot camp, Himmelstoss

abused Paul and his friends, yet the harassment brought them closer together and

developed a strong spirit of support between them. In fact, in time the bond

between the soldiers was so great that they were able to communicate with little

or no words, "[they didn't] talk much, but [Paul] believes [they] have a

more complete communion with one another then even lovers have." Their

ability to relate to each other also carried on to other soldiers, at times

crossing enemy lines. After Paul wounds a French soldier that stumbled into his

shell hole, he feels a tremendous amount of guilt. As the soldier is dying, Paul

befriends him by bringing him water and wrapping up his wounds. He doesn’t

understand why war "? meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation

but different uniforms against each other" because he realizes that they

are both very much a like. Paul’s generation felt empty and isolated from the

rest of the world due to the fact that they never truly established any part of

themselves in civilian life. They joined the military straight out of school and

never had a chance to start a family, secure a job, or make something of their

life. It was because of this common factor that Paul’s generation found no

belonging in civilization, but instead a brotherhood amongst fellow soldiers.

Although this close brotherhood between the soldiers made the war bearable, it

was an added obstacle that made reintegrating into society difficult. The narrow

minded thinking that they could only get along with, and relate to, other

soldiers who had experienced the true horrors of war made functioning in society

difficult. The soldiers themselves realized that reentering society and leading

a normal life would be extremely difficult, and many soldiers would never fully

recover from the devastation of war, which made them feel utterly at a loss. The

terrifying reality of war, which was kept a secret to the older generations, is

that when you enlist young men, straight out of school and place them in battle,

you force them to grow up too quickly and the results are "?a generation

of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by



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