World War I had a great effect on the lives of Paul Baumer and the young men of his generation. These boys’ lives were dramatically changed by the war, and “even though they may have escaped its shells, [they] were destroyed by the war” (preface). In Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul Baumer and the rest of his generation feel separated from the other men, lose their innocence, and experience comradeship as a result of the war.
Paul and his generation feel separated from the rest society. Paul feels as though “[he has] been crushed without knowing it” and “[does] not belong anymore, it is a foreign world” (168). Other men “talk to much for [him]. They have worries, aims, desires, that [he] cannot comprehend” (168). His generation of men who fought in the war is “pushed aside” (249) as unpleasant reminders of a war the civilian population would like to forget. After surviving such unspeakable experiences the soldiers feel separated from everyone. Paul says, “men will not understand us” (294). “The generation that has grown up after us will be strange to us and push us aside” (294). After the war most soldiers “will be bewildered” (294) and “in the end [they] will fall into ruin” (294). The soldiers do not have concrete identities as the older generations do. “All the older men are linked up with their previous life” (19). Paul’s generation cannot even imagine any definite post-war plans. Their experiences are so shattering that they regard the prospect of functioning in a peacetime environment with vague anxiety. They have no experiences as adults that do not involve a day-to-day fight for survival and sanity. Paul has a “feeling if foreignness” and “cannot find [his] way back” (172).
After entering the war in young adulthood, the soldiers lost their innocence. Paul’s generation is called the Lost Generation because they have lost their childhood while in the war. When Paul visits home on leave he realizes that he will never be the same person who enlisted in the army. His pre-war life contains a boy who is now dead to him. While home on leave Paul says “I used to live in this room before I was a soldier” (170). He has changed so much since he enlisted that he hardly recognizes who he was before. Paul used to care about school, women, and the future. Now all he cares about is staying alive. The soldiers have become numb to death after seeing it so often. After Paul kills Gerard Duval his comrades remark “he [doesn’t] need to lose sleep over it” (229). They “see men living with their skulls blown open; [they] see soldiers run with their two feet cut off. [They] see men without mouths, without jaws, without faces” (134). Paul wants to return to his “carefree, beautiful” (172) youth, as do the rest of his generation.
Another effect the war had on Paul’s generation was comradeship. The soldiers felt an incredible closeness with each other because they have gone through the horrors of war together. To Paul, his comrades are “more to [him] than life” (212). “They are the strongest, most comforting thing there is anywhere…” (212). Paul “belong[s] to them and they to [him]” (212). “[They] all have the same fear and the same life” (212). Paul and his comrades have an intense friendship that is strengthened by their relentless suffering and terror. They share so much in common that they are like brothers.
Through All Quiet on the Western Front Remarque shows how World War I affected the Lost Generation. Paul Baumer and his friends suffered greatly in a senseless war. They cannot live a normal life when their first calling was killing. These men were the victims, but also the killers. Their war experiences brought the soldiers closer together, but separated them from the rest of the population. The young men also lost their innocence from constant exposure to the brutalities of war.