In Chapter 1 of All Quiet on the Western Front, the author writes about how Paul and his friends were pushed to enlist in the German Army. He says,
"'During drill-time Kantorek gave us long lectures until the whole of our class went, under his shepherding, to the District Commandant and volunteered. I can see him now, as he used to glare at us through his spectacles and say in a moving voice: 'Won't you join up, Comrades?'"
Teachers, who were the boys' authority figures, were instrumental in convincing them to join up. The pressure to join was prolonged and unrelenting, and Mr. Kantorek in particular used passion and emotion to sway the impressionable young men.
"...no one could very well stand out, because at that time even one's parents were ready with the word 'coward.'"
Remarque makes some important points in this quote. The first is the propensity for boys of Paul's age to do their utmost not to seem different; the fear of not fitting in seems to be almost universal for adolescents. To be looked at as being a coward at this age is even worse. It is significant that even the boys' parents joined in the pressure to get their sons to enlist.
"...no one had the vaguest idea what we were in for. The wisest were just the poor and simple people. They knew the war to be a misfortune, whereas those who were better off, and should have been able to see more clearly what the consequences would be, were beside themselves with joy."
This quote expresses one of the central themes in the book. The boys really did have no idea what the consequences would be when they enlisted. The nation was swept up in war-fever and an atmosphere of unthinking patriotism. In their zeal, the patriots overlooked the horrible reality of what war is really like, so overcome were they with enthusiasm for Germany's cause (Chapter 1).