I just finished reading the first chapter of All Quiet and the last sentence really struck me. In it, Kropp says,
“Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk.” (18)
It got me thinking a lot about the lecture Dr. Scanlon gave last week. Specifically, about the soldier who was around 14.
I’m a senior now and I can’t put into words how many times I’ve been taught about war. From the Revolutionary to the War of 1812 to the Mexican American War–thanks to public education I’ve had decent exposure to learning about them and something that has been added to every lesson I’ve encountered is the idea that war changes a person. I can’t be one to dispute that–I’ve never been in war much less the military, but that statement always felt like an afterthought. I don’t come from a military family and the most change I ever experienced was going into my freshman year of college. Some of the people fighting in WW1 were my age or younger. Not to offend anyone that’s still early on in their college career, but I can’t help but think how scared and immature I was then. There was no ready I would’ve been even slightly ready for war, much less for a “war to end all wars.”
I guess the whole point of this post is to say that I never really put much thought into how young some of these people were and how quickly a life of normalcy was robbed from them. In the book these boys are talking about how they’re “old folk.” How the war has changed them so much already. It’s disturbing.