generation. The survivors were left permanently damaged because of the shell shock that
forever haunted them.
takes Kemerich?s death for them to realize this. Paul becomes a victim of war: ?I become
faint, all at once I cannot do anymore. I won?t revile anymore, it is senseless, I could drop
down and never rise up again…He is dead. His face is still wet from the tears.? (Remarque
hardest parting I have ever seen…? (Remarque 31). The witnesses of Kemmerich?s last
minutes was worth a lifetime of experience. These boys were exposed to things no man
should ever have to see in a lifetime. Not only did they lose their childhood, but it was
torn from them heartlessly. Remarque captures the exact moment this transformation
forward in my boots, I go quicker, I run. Soldiers pass by me, I hear their voices without
understanding. The earth is streaming with forces which pour into me through the soles of
his happy child-like thoughts, and problem free outlook. Instead of slowly growing and
is supernaturally taken away, and this day is marked by God. It is when the youth of our
anyone else can do. ?We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Young?
That is long ago. We are old folk.? (Remarque 18). Paul and his friends are aware of
their experiences, and the effect it has on their young lives. Their childhood is put in an
an elder his childhood is far away and forever forgotten. Paul tells us that his childhood is
not retrievable: ?…and even if the scenes of youth were given back to us, we would
hardly know what to do..I believe we are lost.? Remarque 122-23). These boys are not
children, and not adults. They are in an awkward and difficult place that will destroy them
seen, but never touched. They become less and less modest every day. When the boys
first entered the barracks, they were embarrassed to use the bathroom out in the open.
They then got accustomed to this, and easy things like that became silly. Paul says, ?Since
then we have learned better than to be shy about such trifling immodesty?s. In time things
far worse come easy to us.? (Remarque 8). He says he doesn?t understand why he shied
it feels like to be innocent. When new recruits came to the barracks, Paul and his friends
would laugh, and feel superior to these sorry newcomers. They soon saw so many deaths
that even death became just apart of everyday life. When Paul went on leave, he had to
tell Kemmerich?s mom that her son had died. His mom asked if Kemmerich was in pain,
and Paul replied ?No? without any hesitation. Paul said that he died right away. This was
a lie, because Kemmerich was in great pain for several days before he died. Paul then
thought ?When a man has seen so many dead he cannot understand any longer why there
should be so much anguish over a single individual.? (Remarque 181). Paul swears by
God, and his life that Kemmerich died instantly. This means nothing to him, because he
little, even if it was his friend. So much killing went on, that it became purely instinct. It
threw a grenade at a man. He then states, ?We have become wild beasts. We do not
fight, we defend ourselves against annihilation…If your own father came over with them
you would not hesitate to fling a bomb at him.? (Remarque 113-14). Such an important
figure, a father, is used to express this point. Killing is becoming purely instinctual to
matter what it takes. They are numb and no longer feel emotions. In war they don?t think
about who they are killing, or why, just that it is what they have to do. The boys have
what they can to survive. Not only have Paul and his friends lost their childhood, they
have drowned all hope of ever becoming innocent again. They also make big decisions
that affect the lives of others within their own lines. One of the new recruits is wounded.
He is young, and has hurt his leg badly. Kat turns to Paul and says, ?Shouldn?t we just
take a revolver and put an end to it?? (Remarque 72). Paul figures they should put him
out of his misery. Without hesitation they kill the young boy.
changes that led to the loss of his innocence, along with the rest of the boys.
The characters in the novel have lost hope for life, their future, and the
dreams and hopes, and stood on the ?threshold of life.? (Remarque 20). Paul had
a future ahead of him. Some of the boys had jobs, like Tjaden the locksmith. They
only knew school, and had the opportunity to do anything with their lives, but
decided to enlist in the war. After they lose their childhood, they lose hope in their
lives and futures. They don?t even know why they are even in the war. These
even trust the older generation. Paul looks outside. ?Monotonously the lorries
sway, monotonously come the calls, monotonously falls the rain.? (Remarque 74).
The same thing happens everyday. People live and die, the rain falls, they eat and
wake up. Every day they fight for a hidden cause. It doesn?t seem to get them
anywhere, or accomplish anything. They do the same things for a hopeless reason,
and this is a cause of their lost hope in the world. They do talk about going home
in the beginning, but it all becomes a false dream. The boys think about women,
Women must remain beautiful on posters, not in real life, and not through their
eyes. It is especially hard for them to have faith in the world when they don?t
know for who or why they are fighting. The boys try to figure this out:
?Then what exactly is the war for?? asks Tjaden.
Kat shrugs his shoulders. ?There must be some people to whom the war is
?Well I?m not one of them?
?Not you nor anyone else here.?
?Who are they then?? persists Tjaden. ?It isn?t any use to the Kaiser either.
He has everything he can want already.? (Remarque 205)
When America fought in the war, at least they had a cause. These youth don?t know
who they are working for. Even worse, they figure, if God is on both sides, who is
women, and they are fighting against the French. They don?t care anymore which side
is which. It is all meaningless to them, anyway. After awhile, nothing becomes
important, because they have no answers and no hope. The boys don?t feel alone, they
know that their entire generation feels the same way.
We agree that it is the same for everyone; not only for us here, but everywhere,
for everyone who is our age; to some more, and to others less. It is the common
fate of our generation…the war has ruined us for everything…we do not want to
take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our
lives. We were eighteen and had just begun to love life; and we had to shoot it
to pieces. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe
in such things no longer, we believe in the war. (Remarque 87-88)
The boys know that the war effects all involved. Some take it better than others, but it
is going to kill an entire generation either way. They do not have any desires, drives
war they accomplish nothing. They don?t even use the knowledge they learned in
school. Everything is meaningless. This is also because society treated them like
machines. ?Remarque accused a mechanistic civilization of destroying humane values,
everyone is treated the same; they are fed the same amount, they dress the same, and
they must live in a harsh, strict environment. The doctors used war victims as
experiments. They tested them like animals. No one single man was important, they
all fought like robots. This destroyed their moral. Then society brushed them aside.
hope or emotions. This was the only way to get through the war. Paul doesn?t believe
in the older generation. Before the war, the boys looked up to these people, and
trusted them. They were wiser. ?The first death we saw shattered this belief. We had
to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs.? (Remarque
12-13). If Paul?s generation was in charge, there would be no silly war, where the
wrong people do the fighting. The boys agree that the people in charge should fight
themselves, in a ring, one on one. Instead they are against authority, and people like
anything else anymore. He is lost. At the end Paul realizes, ?They can take nothing
from me, nothing more.? (Remarque 295) Paul dies without hope, and only knowing
the most terrible things that the world has to offer.
The lost generation has great difficulty dealing with society. They no longer
friends away from the war anymore. These social problems first appear when Paul
goes on leave. ?I prefer to be alone, so that no one troubles me…They talk to much.
They have worries, aims desires, that I cannot comprehend.? (Remarque 168). He
gets home and is burdened by his families questions, and people he does not
understand. Paul does not remember this life they know, so sits alone in his room, and
awaits his return to the front. He then goes to his bookshelf. He looks at his books
Slowly I place the books back on the shelves. Nevermore. Quietly, I go out of the
room.? (Remarque 173). Paul hates leave. He cannot relate to anything, and he
cannot find any old interests to pass the time. He no longer knows what interests are.
Leave made everything worse. He then says, ?I am nothing but in agony for myself,
my mother, for everything that is so comfortless and without end. I ought to never
have come on leave.? (Remarque, 185) He regains some feeling while on leave. This
does nothing but damage. After Paul returns, to save his own life, he must kill a man
ours, and that we have the same fear of death…forgive me, comrade; how could you
be my enemy?? (Remarque, 223) Paul could not tolerate this feeling. He had not felt
emotion in so long, and it ruined people in the war. He had not felt it on leave because
drove him into serious thought; and he began to understand the damage war did to his
the war had destroyed the ties, psychological, moral, and real, between the front
generation and society at home.? (Eksteins 336-37) Eksteins believes that Remarque
carefully chose these scenes to emphasize the effect of war on homelike. This had the
most devastating effects on the generation because even if they did live, it would be
impossible to lead a normal life. When they came home, if they survived, and the war
was over, Paul felt:
Men will not understand us-for the generation that grew up before us, though it
has passed these years with us already had a home and a calling; now it will
return to its old occupations, and the war will be forgotten-and the generation
that has grown up after us will be strange to us and push us aside…the years will
pass by and in the end we shall fall into ruin. (Remarque 294)
These war victims will never have a place in society, and they will always be looked
upon as outcasts. The war will be done and forgotten, and people will no longer
remember the men who saved them. The younger generations will contribute to the
destruction of this generation, even though it was fought for them and their kids. It
is better for the men who didn?t return because they won?t have to face the trouble
that is given to them by society?s pressure. They would have died with honor,
instead of lived on in misery. The war destroyed an entire generation and left a
generation unable to cope with life afterwards.
World War I was the cause of the lost generation. Remarque shows this in
his book: ?…It is meant only to try to report on a generation that was destroyed by
the war-even when it escaped the shells.? (Remarque epigraph) The trouble this
generation faced was caused by the war and its effects. The war took their
innocence, their hope, and turned society against them.