Assess how has the war changed Paul and his friends of generation.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the reasons why Remarque's work is so powerful is that it details the dehumanizing experience of war.  Prior to World War I, so many viewed war as an honorable experience.  Cloaked in the language of patriotism and nationalism, filled with descriptors that emphasized the triumph of war, people believed in its sincerity and that all of its praises were worthwhile.  It took the savagery and brutality of World War I to truly tear that facade away.  The dehumanization that results because of war is where Remarque's work shows how Paul and all of his comrades were changed by war.  Paul and his fellow soldiers learn of the absurdity and randomness that is a part of war.  Fighting in the trenches and avoiding being hit becomes an exercise where there is little in way of calculation and skill.  It is more of a survival activity where one minute of life has little indication on the next minute of life. There is no transcendent order in such a condition.  It is in this where Paul and his friends who fight are irrevocably changed.  They are not able to comprehend how meaningless life has become, to hang on the whim of a bullet's trajectory.  Life as a human in war is more akin to a machine, where perfectly honed reflexes are more of a determination of life and death as opposed to any sort of moral or ethical construction of order.  Living is merely survival, and the power of the individual is greatly reduced.  It is in this awareness and understanding where Paul and his friends are forever changed.  This makes them incapable of living back home away from war, and yet dreading its being at the same time.  Paul sees himself as living a life "so very alone" and is able to articulate that his own generation is "weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope."  In this, life has changed as a result of the war.

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All Quiet on the Western Front

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