Why did the students join the army in All Quiet on the Western Front?
It is clear that the boys joined up at the intense urging of their schoolmaster, Kantorek; as well, the adults in their lives, such as their parents, all stressed the glory of joining up and the duty that the boys had to their country. It is telling that the first one to die, Joseph Behm, was the one who held out the longest from being convinced to join. The fact that Remarque makes this point is evidence that he believes the youths were falsely mislead into believing that the war was about defending the "Fatherland" and all of propaganda that the German government promoted. Instead, the boys led gruesome existences, followed by death, one by one. I would argue that this novel is not a coming of age novel in the classic sense of the term; instead, based on the fact that Paul Baumer repeatedly stresses that he and his friends had "no chance" at their lives, no chance to have a family, no chance to be in love, no chance at life, period, the novel's central message is that was strips young men of everything. They all die.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a coming of age story of the youth of the 1910's. The students, Paul and his classmates, Muller, Kropp and Leer joined the army at the urging of their schoolmaster, Kantorek. The schoolmaster is among those of the older generation who encouraged the boys to sign up for the army. Many adults, parents included, encouraged enlistment, even going so far as to call the boys cowards if they did not. As the young men learn what it is to be forced to grow up, so quickly, in the face of war, another irony comes forth. That is the wisdom of the soldiers compared to the foolish ideas of Kantorek and the generation before them, who portray a festive like attitude towards war.