Today they say "be all you can be" in the army…but that isn't the recruitment slogan in All Quiet's Germany. Joining the army means putting a pin in those fancy dreams and future plans of yours, likely indefinitely.
Paul and his friends begin their journey as young men with dreams of glory in the army followed by full lives when they return home. But as their wartime service drags on, they realize those dreams will amount to nothing.
Even if they manage to survive the war—and that's a big "if" by the way—their service has altered them in ways that will never allow them to reenter society to live the lives they and their parents imagined. Whether from mental trauma, physical handicaps, or simple recognition of the true depravity humanity is capable of, their futures have been destroyed before they even had a chance to begin.
Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans
How do Paul's dreams and future plans change from the beginning of the movie to the end? What does this progression tell you about the relationship between dreams and war?
How do the dreams of the older soldiers differ from those of the younger ones? Why do you suppose this is?
Do any of the soldiers achieve their dreams or goals? If so, who and how does this affect your reading of the theme? If not, why not?
Chew on This
Every character from the younger generation—i.e., Paul and his classmates—has his dreams destroyed by the war.
War destroys the dreams of the non-combatant characters as well. Paul's mother doesn't obtain her dream of Paul staying safe, Himmelstoss loses his position and becomes a grunt, and Kantorek will have to face the fact that Germany will lose the war.