Paul continues to describe how "Our early life is cut off from the moment we came here, and that without our lifting a hand." He compares his comrades to the older generation who have already lived their middle age with homes, wives, families, and vocations. Paul and his peers have hardly even begun and, "in some strange and melancholy way we have become a waste land." Their heads were filled with romance and ideals, and they would never survive at the front with that education alone. Unfortunately for Paul and his friends, fate intervenes in the person of Colonel Himmelstoss. Although the sadistic officer puts them through their well-described paces, he also teaches them more about survival in ten weeks than they ever learned in ten years of school. In their practical and chaotic world at the front, "a bright button is weightier than four volumes of Schopenhauer." So much
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