All Quiet on the Western Front

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All Quiet on the Western Front Themes

Themes and Colors
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Comradeship Theme Icon
The Hypocrisy of the Older Generation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in All Quiet on the Western Front, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

World War I is considered the first modern war, as it was the first conflict in which weapons like poison gas, armored tanks, and shell bombardments were used widely by both sides. Much of the land conflict in WWI was fought in networks of trenches dug throughout Europe, including the infamous “Western Front” in Belgium and France. Set in the final years of the war, the novel All Quiet on the Western Front is famous…

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Many of the young soldiers, including Paul, joined the army because they were motivated by romantic ideals like patriotism and honor. On the front, however, they quickly learn that patriotic fervor will not protect them from exploding shells or poison gas. In the trenches, there is only one goal: survival at any cost. Soldiers must be prepared to act unthinkingly in battle, no matter how horrifying these actions might have once seemed. The men…

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Though Paul often dreams about his life before the war, he knows that he can never return to it. The war has destroyed an entire generation of young men, leaving them “lost”—physically and psychologically maimed and unable to readjust to their past lives. Even if they manage to survive the trenches, the things they have seen and done there have permanently transformed them. Paul experiences the jarring effects of this transformation most clearly when he…

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For Paul, the one positive aspect of the war experience is that it forges extraordinarily strong bonds between soldiers. The men of the Second Company are comrades-in-arms, closer than family or even lovers. They have seen unspeakable horrors and endured unimaginable suffering together, experiences they will never be able to share with those who did not fight. The war creates sharp distinctions between soldiers and civilians, but it erases other distinctions. Class divisions, for…

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When war broke out in 1914, many Germans viewed the conflict as an opportunity for Germany to prove her superior military strength. Young men were expected to support the national cause by signing up for active duty. These soldiers were volunteers in theory only, Paul says. The reality was that most had no say in the matter. Under immense pressure from parents, teachers, and politicians, young men had to enlist or risk being accused of…

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