"We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial-I believe we are lost." Your friend in class doesn't understand what Paul means by this...

"We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial-I believe we are lost." Your friend in class doesn't understand what Paul means by this remark. Explain Paul's conclusion that the soldiers can be both children and old men at the same time.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Paul is suggesting that the experiences of war have helped to make children represent some of the worst aspects of adults.  The bitterness and resentment that have come to replace what was once hope and excitement have made the soliders" crude, sorrowful, and superficial." Paul's statement is one in which the worst mentality of the old has overcome the condition of being hopeful and being young.  For Paul, this condition has happened because so many young people were encouraged to enter the war on a false premise or without proper examination.  The result was an intense bitterness with what the real experiences of war offered them.  

Paul's conclusion is one where a loss of innocence have made the young become jaded.  This is a state in which the vices of the old have become appropriated by the young.  The joy of living has become suffocated by the bitterness of experience.  The harsh realities of the war have brought this condition on and have forced the soldiers to become everything they wished they would not become.  It is for this reason that Paul feels that he and his generation are "lost," as they have prematurely aged and are uncertain of who they are and in what they believe.

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