The Lost Generation of All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Maria Remarque wrote All Quiet on the Western Front in 1929. Remarque’s novel chronicles a group of classmates who, at the urging of their schoolteacher, enlists in the German army during World War I, then known as The Great War. The classmates each are killed off, until by the end of the novel, only the protagonist Paul Baumer remains, and he, too, dies from a stray bullet, the only death that day. All Quiet on the Western Front, through its protagonist Paul Baumer, who is much like Remarque, portrays a generation of men who have been affected by the war.
In All Quiet on the Western Front, Remarque portrays a generation of men who, when the war was over, found it difficult to return to civilian life. This theme of a lost generation is what drives All Quiet on the Western Front. In the beginning of the novel, before the story has even begun, Remarque writes, “This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war,” (Remarque preface). Even those soldiers who went through the war without being wounded were affected psychologically by the ordeal they went through in the trenches. Visiting home while on leave, Paul’s isolation is better demonstrated than the scenes of him on the front; what he has gone through at the front causes him to be unable to return to the home he fights for (Andrew 4). Richard Church writes, “Most men who were engaged in active fighting during a long period of the war on the western front have felt that the human race is divided into two parts – those who shared in that experience and those who did not,” (41). All Quiet on the Western Front succeeded in this regard, portraying Remarque’s generation as lost (Eksteins 51).
One reason for the...