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All Quiet on the Western Front

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Kantorek would say

We stood on the threshold of life

And so it would seem

We had as yet taken no root

The war swept us away

For the others, the older men,

It is but an interruption, they are able to think beyond it

We, however, have been gripped by it

And do not know what the end may be

We know only

That in some strange and melancholy way

We have become a wasteland

What does war do to a man? It destroys his inner being; it crushes hope; it kills him. Experiencing battle leaves only the flesh of a man, for he no longer has a personality; it leaves a wasteland where a vast field of humanity once was. Through the main character, Paul Baumer, the reader experiences the hardships and consequences of war. During the course of the war, Paul reflects on how the young men involved in the war have no future left for them, they've become a "lost generation." Paul feels that his generation has "become a wasteland" because the war has made him into a thoughtless animal, because he knew nothing before the war, and because the war has shown the cheapness of human life.

Throughout the novel, Paul must face dangerous tasks. For example, in chapter nine Paul crawls through No Man's Land to gather information about enemy forces. While in No Man's Land, the enemy begins to bombard the Germans. Paul, fearing death, hides in an old shell crater and pretends to be dead. While feigning death, an enemy soldier enters the crater. Paul quickly reacts and strike at the enemy with his dagger, fatally wounding the soldier.

In a later chapter, Paul explains why he reacted so quickly. War has turned all the soldiers into "unthinking animals in order to give us the weapon of instinct." This primal instinct is one of survival; it is the only thing that matters during war. It allows the soldiers to remain calm in battle, it allows them to escape solitude, and aids them in survival. "As in a polar expedition, every expression of life must serve only the preservation of existence, and is absolutely focused on that;" Paul and the other soldiers do only what is necessary to ensure their own survival.

This affects each soldier when the war is finished. When a soldier returns back to his home after the war, he is unable to escape his primitive feelings of survival. For such a long time, the soldier was forced to abandon all feelings and thoughts other than those of survival. His instinct still runs wild throughout him, he still feels as if he's in the heat of the battle. The soldier cannot make the transition back to civilian life because of this, and for that he, along with all the other soldiers, is lost.

Another point that Paul makes in this novel is that his generation of soldiers has known nothing but war. Early in the book, Paul reflects on what he did before the war. He remembers that on his desk lies many poems and an unfinished play called "Saul."

Paul continues to reminisce about what he did before the war, and he finds that there is little he can remember. When searching for a reason as to why he can't recall many of the things he did in the past, he realizes that the war has washed away their memories because of his youth. "For us young men of twenty everything is extraordinarily vague, for Kropp, MÑŒller, Leer, and for me, for all of us whom Kantorek calls the 'Iron Youth'."

For those soldiers who are older, they know a life before war;



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