One of the major themes of the novel is the difficulty of soldiers to revert to civilian life after having experienced extreme combat situations. Remarque comments in the preface that "[All Quiet on the Western Front] will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war." This internal destruction can be found as early as the first chapter as Paul comments that, although all the boys are young, their youth has left them.
In addition, the massive loss of life and negligible gains from the fighting are constantly emphasized. Soldiers' lives are thrown away by their commanding officers who are stationed comfortable away from the front, ignorant of the daily terrors of the front line.