Paul, only being twenty years of age had been stripped of his youth because of the war, which proves the theme of the lost generation. At the start of Paul’s war experience, he states, “We young men of twenty, however, have only our parents, and some, perhaps, a girl – that is not much, for at our age the influence of parents is at its weakest and girls have not yet a hold over us.” (Remarque 9). While the older men in the war have left behind so much back home, Paul realizes that he barely has anything that he has had to leave behind. The young men haven’t even gotten to experience love, marriage, and children; they are hardly even adults. The theme is also revealed when Remarque states, “We had no definite plans for our future. Our thoughts of a career and occupation were as yet of too unpractical a character to furnish any scheme of life.” (Remarque 10). The men had been too young to know what they truly wanted to do with their lives. Their shot at education or occupation had been put on hold while the rest of the boys and girls their age actually had their chance to fully experience growing up. After facing the brutality of the war, Paul completely understands his stripped youth by saying, “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over by an abyss of sorrow.” (Remarque 117). The war has caused Paul to completely forget about any of the good things that happened in his life prior to the war. All the negative factors of the war have overpowered him and make him further realize his shortened time of growing up. The adolescence of Paul and the rest of the “Iron Youth” were clearly taken away from each of them, which further show the theme of the lost generation.
Throughout the book, Himmelstoss and the boys continue to prove how war brings out the worst in people, Remarque states, “He had the reputation of being the strictest disciplinarian in the camp and was proud of it.” (Remarque 10). Corporal Himmelstoss forces all the young men to do whatever he wants, even if it is not necessary to do so. Even when they do what Himmelstoss says, he still finds something wrong with their task and makes them do it again. This unnecessary and cruel act causes Himmelstoss to receive the same thing in return when the author says, “We seized the bed-cover, made a quick leap, threw it over his head from behind and pulled it round him so that he stood there in a white sack unable to raise his arms.” (Remarque 21). The young men simply got tired of the way Himmelstoss was treating them, so they decided to get payback. The war itself is miserable enough already, the boys didn’t want it to be any worse. Because Himmelstoss and Tjaden never got along, Remarque says, “He hunted up another piss-a-bed-, named Kindervater, from a neighboring unit, and quartered him with Tjaden.” (Remarque 21). The bunks that they sleep on cause the urine to fall on the person below, which is why Himmelstoss went through the trouble f finding another man like Tjaden. He wants to see Tjaden miserable and it showed a very negative and spiteful side of him. The theme, war brings out the worst in people, is portrayed throughout the book