This incredibly moving book is a profound and powerful meditation on World War I and in particular on the lives of so many that were lost, both through death and through the events that these soldiers witnessed. The narrator himself recognises this when he speaks to his friends about how war has changed them all irrevocably, and for the worse. Note what his conclusions are as he discusses the "common fate of their generation":
We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly by ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.
The kind of language used in this quote is powerful and effective in explaining what the war has done to Paul and to all soldiers caught up in the war. Note the use of short sentences and the repetition of the reference to "flying." The contrast is drawn between how they had begun to love the world when they reached eighteen, and now they are forced to "shoot it to pieces" as part of their job. The final sentence, which states the present belief of Paul and all soldiers in the "war" alone is a tragic realisation of the impact of the war on them and their entire generation and how they all have been affected negatively by what they have witnessed and the acts they have been forced to engage in.