Loss of Innocence in “All Quiet on the Western Front”
In the book All Quiet On The Western Front, Remarque uses the loss of innocence of his characters to show that war breaks and even destroys people. Also Remarque’s ground breaking book presents a powerful literary critique of WWI by smashing any ideas about war is heroic and meaningful. Due to the war in All Quiet On The Western Front, the soldiers’ perspective of life becomes nothing but death and misery; it results in the soldiers knowing too much about the dark part of life.
At the beginning of the book, the soldiers have not lost their innocence because of the cruelty of war. “Yesterday we were relieved, and now our bellies are full of beef and haricot beans. We are satisfied and at peace. Each man has another mess-tin full for the evening; and, what is more, there is a double ration of sausage and bread. That puts a man in fine trim” (Remarque 1). This is an innocent way the soldiers live. This quote shows how fully they take pleasure in something as simple as food. The brutal war has not destroyed their innocence, they are so naive. They are carefree, and live in a peaceful natural environment, not realizing the horrible battle is coming.
“These are wonderfully care-free hours. Over us is the blue sky. On the horizon float the bright yellow sunlit observation-balloons, and the many little white clouds of the anti-aircraft shells. Often they rise in a sheaf as they follow after an airman. We hear the muffled rumble of the front only as very distant thunder, bumblebees droning by quite drown it” (Remarque 9). In this moment, the soldiers find themselves in a protected paradise. Remarque uses words like “care-free”, “float”, and “soft” to create a warm, cheerful and inviting mood. Also he creates a dangerous atmosphere when he uses words like “”little white clouds”” to describe the bombs detonating in the distance. In this moment it shows that they can’t get away from the life surrounded by war. The cruelty of war will swallow up their innocence very soon.
When the war begins it devours their innocence as fast as it can. They are getting older both physically and mentally and they are no longer young. As Kantorek says, “Yes, that’s the way they think, these hundred thousand Kantoreks! Iron Youth! Youth! We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk” (Remarque 18). The war not only took the lives of millions of people, but also caused great harm to people’s mind and body. They are much older and run down by the cruelties of the war.
Also the war makes them disoriented and nervous. Sleep is the only thing they can do. “I don’t know whether it’s morning or evening. I lie in the pale cradle of the twilight, and listen for the soft words which will come, soft and near – am I crying? I put my hand to my eyes, it is so fantastic; am I a child?” (Remarque 60). Sleep is the only thing to let them forget where they are. This quote shows Paul’s realization of the horrors of war. This is a heartbreaking moment and it’s the first time Paul is exposed to such a situation. The war is very terrible; everybody hears it in the background with fear. And it brings us untold miseries and damage.
The war has changed the men’s lives forever and changes the very soul of a person as well as their outlook on 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” (Remarque 88). When these men were young, learning to love and live, they went into war and destroyed their lives. The only thing they really know how to do is fight in a war. They are always going to remember the first time they had to fight. All of these memories soon became part of their perspective of the “”normal life.”” The cruelty of war has made a great impact on people’s lives and minds and bodies.
They feel scared and desperate. “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how people are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently, slay one another” (Remarque 263). The war changes the very soul of a person as well as their outlook on life.They lose in this war; they don’t know what to expect once the war ends. The war led them to lose their innocence and let them drop off into a dark war that they never return from.
WWI left Europe and the world feeling like it just brings suffering and misery. Because of war people are forced to leave their hometowns, lose their loved ones, and live in fear every day; even in today’s more peaceful society, there are still wars happening right now. War cause great disaster and misery to countries, societies and people.