All Quiet on the Western Front
How we cite our quotes:
Beside us lies a fair-headed recruit in utter terror. He has buried his face in his hands, his helmet has fallen off. I fish hold of it and try to put it back on his head. He looks up, pushes the helmet off and like a child creeps under my arm, his head close to my breast. The little shoulders heave. (4.48)
This new recruit makes us realize just how brave Paul and his compatriots are. If we were thrown into this trench, we would probably do exactly what this young recruit is doing. We are reminded at this moment of just how young these men are.
He is right. We are not youth any longer. We don't want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in war. (5.121)
Growing up is very much about striving and dreaming and thinking about the future. Is it that the soldiers no longer "want to take the world by storm," or is it that they have no choice but to believe only in war? What does Paul mean to fly from oneself? What would happen if the soldiers did not fly from themselves?
We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial – I believe we are lost. (6.105)
This last line makes us think of the Lost Generation, or the name given to those who came of age during World War I. Earnest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein were writers who helped give voice to this generation.