The theme in a story is a message or lesson that the author wants the reader to take away when reading the story. These themes can teach the reader lessons, get points across or help them understand the book better. All Quiet On The Western Front displays the themes: the horrors and destruction of war and the effects on soldiers, sacrifice, loss of innocence, and friendship.
Because All Quiet on the Western Front is about among soldiers fighting on the front lines of battle, one of its main focuses is the disastrous effect that war has on the soldiers who fight in it. These men and women are subject to constant physical danger, as they are well aware that they could literally be blown to pieces at any given moment. This intense, physical threat also serves as an unceasing attack on their nerves, forcing soldiers to handle difficult situations with initial, instinctive fear during every waking moment. Additionally, the soldiers are ...view middle of the document...
Sacrifice implies a set of beliefs for which one is willing to give something up to achieve. In All Quiet on the Western Front, the men sacrifice everything for nothing. They give up their lives for a set of goals that are either incomprehensible or false. The fact that they sacrifice for unknown reasons leads to a great and widespread tension.
Innocence is almost an enemy to the witnesses and victims of war – a soldier must get rid of it right away if he wants to survive. Paul looses his innocence immediately upon enlisting in the war, mostly by quickly observing the loss in others around him, but also through his own experiences. He consciously feels that loss as he survives in the story, noting how he has become "an old folk" and how separate he feels from the new recruits entering the battle; recruits only a year or so younger than he is, but far more innocent, due to their lack of knowledge of the long lasting effects the war can have on a soldier. He is granted a 17 day leave to visit his family. Upon his time at home, he realizes that he does not belong. He feels like a stranger in the place he once called home. The battlefield is now his home and he knew that if he were to return, he would never feel comfortable.
The first word of the novel is "We." The one good thing that has emerged from the war, Paul often repeats, is the comradeship between the soldiers. Disciplinarian training intends on breaking down the soldiers' individuality, and the horrors of war bond the men in ways most people would not understand. They do everything together, from eating to using the latrines; even dead bodies in battle are used as cover for the living. Sexuality also plays an important role in their all-male companionship as they go on amorous adventures for women. Without the help and support of his comrades, Paul might not have made it as far as he did.
The effects that the war can have on a soldier are long lasting and can never be forgotten, assuming you come back alive. Unless you serve time in the military, or experience the fatalities of the war, we will never become capable of grasping what these men and women go through during their service. They witness death and trauma beyond our understanding and nothing is comparable.