“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from 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 explosions, 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.”
So this is one of my favorite quotes from All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s pretty straightforward and easy to understand, yet it encompasses all these tragedies associated with the war. There is a bitterness among the soldiers due to this interruption in the most crucial point of their lives. These soldiers are young; they had a whole life ahead of them. Except, they are drafted into this war and their optimism and perspective of the world completely changed. They can’t go on living like they did before. They’ve seen too much, experienced too many things that have changed their lives. They don’t see themselves as teenagers; they think they’re old. This war takes its toll on the soldiers’ mental and physical states in a way that destroys whatever substance they possessed prior to the war.
Teenagers have high hopes and dreams and ambitions. We think that we’re old enough to make our own decisions and get out into the world to finally start living. We’re excited to be on our own and discover what’s out there. We can’t wait to get out of the houses we’ve spent our entire childhood in and live independently. We take these things for granted. AQOTWF made me realize how destructive a war really is. World War 1 experienced such a tremendous loss of life and since the soldiers were being killed so quickly, younger and younger kids were drafted to fight a war they hardly understood. They didn’t know what was going on, why they had to fight. They had to face harsh conditions that no one, no matter what age should have to deal with. It forces them to grow up too quickly and dehumanizes them. The men are indifferent to death because they’ve become so accustomed to it. They witness their comrades being killed and they’re forced to continue fighting.
We think we have so much time left in our lives. We can just do something later and everything is going to go according to plan. Yet, there are things that are unplanned that happen and it’s important to prepare for these. We can’t spend all this time sitting around, waiting for something great to occur. There are bigger problems in the world that make our lives seem insignificant. We need to stop taking things for granted and realize that we’re fortunate to live the lives we have. It could be worse and we need to stop putting things off and saying we’ll do it “later”. Later isn’t guaranteed.