In All Quiet on the Western Front, two themes that dominate the plot and complement each other are war and the "rites of passage." In literature, war often becomes the proving ground on which a youth is initiated into one of the rites of passage — as instances, Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (1895) and Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms (1929). Paul Baumer candidly relates his own initiation into war and, as typical of rites of passage, he gains knowledge from his experiences. He says that when he and his twenty classmates enlisted they "were still crammed full of vague ideas which gave to life, and to the war also, an ideal almost romantic character"; ideals, of course, that are shattered by war's brutality as Baumer watches his classmates and comrades lose arms, legs, faces, sanity, and lives. Even when home on leave from the front, he poignantly realizes that he is isolated and alienated from his family and townspeople who can neither understand what he has experienced nor comprehend how his war experiences have changed him; indeed, he is almost eager to return to the front where his comrades are: "I belong to them and they to me, we all share the same fear and the same life." In a larger sense, too, Baumer's rites of initiation mirror the rites of his classmates and friends who share the same experiences, fears, and life.
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