Identify quotes related to losing innocence in All Quiet on the Western Front.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of what makes Remarque's work so powerful is that it strikes at the very heart of the loss of innocence.  The soldiers began their tours with a sense of optimism and hope.  For Paul, the schoolmasters and adults touted war as a glorious and patriotic experience.  They presented the younger generation with a vision of war where only triumph remains.  After the physical and emotional horrors witnessed, the only result is a loss of innocence.  Paul describes his generation as  "weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope."  This is a quote that relates to a loss of innocence because it marks such an extreme contrast from the hopeful zeal that permeated so many as they entered war.  The results of their experience have resulted in a rupturing of bonds that connect them with others.

Another quote that captures the loss of innocence would be how Paul describes himself.  When he says, "I am so alone," it is a statement on how the war has caused him to assess himself and his place in the world.  This is a statement in which there is no longer any solidarity.  There is no longer any unity.  There is simply isolation and a sense of forlornness, a loss of innocence from a condition where, at one point in time, it existed.

The dehumanizing experience of war is one in which innocence becomes the first casualty. Remarque's work depicts it as a condition in which human beings no longer see themselves as human beings.  In this, one can see where a loss of the most basic notions of innocence exist.  Consider this in Chapter 6, when Paul describes what the soldiers have become as a result of their experiences:

We have lost all feeling for one another. We can hardly control ourselves when our glance lights on the form of some other man. We are insensible, dead men, who through some trick, some dreadful magic, are still able to run and kill.

The loss of innocence that exists in this quote is in the idea that the soldiers no longer are human.  They have lost some aspect of their own identity to see themselves as a bit more than animals. To see themseves as "dead men" is a reflection of how innocence was robbed of those who were told to participate in the war experience.

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All Quiet on the Western Front

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