All Quiet on the Western Front

Paul Bäumer Character Analysis

The narrator and protagonist of the novel. Paul and a number of friends enlist in the army at the onset of World War I after being inspired (and pressured) by the nationalist rhetoric of their schoolteacher Kantorek. After experiencing the cruelty of Corporal Himmelstoss at boot camp and the horror of the trenches, Paul becomes disillusioned with the war and feels as though he has been robbed of his past and his future. Paul exemplifies soldiers of the “lost generation,” who had no jobs or wives to return to once the war was over and who carried the physical and emotional scars of the war with them forever. Though Paul often talks of how the war has transformed him into an animal or automaton, he retains compassion and affection for his close comrades. And while he sometimes becomes nostalgic for his childhood spent reading and playing among the poplar trees, he is, by the end of the novel, almost indifferent to his own fate.

Paul Bäumer Quotes in All Quiet on the Western Front

The All Quiet on the Western Front quotes below are all either spoken by Paul Bäumer or refer to Paul Bäumer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine Books edition of All Quiet on the Western Front published in 1987.
Chapter 1 Quotes

There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced that they were acting for the best—in a way that cost them nothing. And that is why they let us down so badly. For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress—to the future…The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Kantorek
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

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Iron Youth. Youth! We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Though Müller would be delighted to have Kemmerich's boots, he is really quite as sympathetic as another who could not bear to think of such a thing for grief. He merely sees things clearly…We have lost all sense of other considerations, because they are artificial. Only the facts are real and important for us. And good boots are scarce.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Müller, Franz Kemmerich
Related Symbols: Kemmerich’s Boots
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Had we gone into the trenches without this period of training most of us would certainly have gone mad. Only thus were we prepared for what awaited us. We did not break down, but adapted ourselves; our twenty years, which made many another thing so grievous, helped us in this. But by far the most important result was that it awakened in us a strong, practical sense of esprit de corps, which in the field developed into the finest thing that arose out of the war—comradeship.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Corporal Himmelstoss
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

At the sound of the first droning of the shells we rush back, in one part of our being, a thousand years. By the animal instinct that is awakened in us we are led and protected. It is not conscious; it is far quicker, much more sure, less fallible, than consciousness. One cannot explain it…It is this other, this second sight in us, that has…saved us, without our knowing how.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

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Kat looks around and whispers: "Shouldn't we just take a revolver and put an end to it?"

The youngster will hardly survive the carrying, and at the most he will only last a few days. What he has gone through so far is nothing to what he's in for till he dies. Now he is numb and feels nothing. In an hour he will become one screaming bundle of intolerable pain. Every day that he can live will be a howling torture. And to whom does it matter whether he has them or not—I nod. "Yes, Kat, we ought to put him out of his misery."

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Stanislaus Katczinsky (speaker)
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

"When I think about it, Albert," I say after a while rolling over on my back, "when I hear the word 'peace-time,' it goes to my head: and if it really came, I think I would do some unimaginable thing—something, you know, that it's worth having lain here in the muck for. But I can't even imagine anything. All I do know is that this business about professions and studies and salaries and so on—it makes me sick, it is and always was disgusting. I don't see anything at all, Albert."

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Albert Kropp
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

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We sit opposite one another, Kat and I, two soldiers in shabby coats, cooking a goose in the middle of the night. We don't talk much, but I believe we have a more complete communion with one another than even lovers have. We are two men, two minute sparks of life; outside is the night and the circle of death. We sit on the edge of it crouching in danger, the grease drips from our hands, in our hearts we are close to one another…What does he know of me or I of him? formerly we should not have had a single thought in common--now we sit with a goose between us and feel in unison, are so intimate that we do not even speak.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Stanislaus Katczinsky
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

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A little soldier and a clear voice, and if anyone were to caress him he would hardly understand, this soldier with the big boots and the shut heart, who marches because he is wearing big boots, and has forgotten all else but marching. Beyond the sky-line is a country with flowers, lying so still that he would like to weep. There are sights there that he has not forgotten, because he never possessed them—perplexing, yet lost to him. Are not his twenty summers there?

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit. In a bombproof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hours' bombardment unscathed. No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

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We could never regain the old intimacy with those scenes. It was not any recognition of their beauty and their significance that attracted us, but the communion, the feeling of a comradeship with the things and events of our existence, which cut us off and made the world of our parents a thing incomprehensible to us—for then we surrendered ourselves to events and were lost in them, and the least little thing was enough to carry us down the stream of eternity.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

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We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial—I believe we are lost.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

The terror of the front sinks deep down when we turn our backs upon it; we make grim, coarse jests about it, when a man dies, then we say he has nipped off his turd, and so we speak of everything; that keeps us from going mad; as long as we take it that way we maintain our own resistance.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

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On the platform I look round; I know no one among all the people hurrying to and fro. A red-cross sister offers me something to drink. I turn away, she smiles at me too foolishly, so obsessed with her own importance: "Just look, I am giving a soldier coffee!"—She calls me "Comrade," but I will have none of it.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 156
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I feel excited; but I do not want to be, for that is not right. I want that quiet rapture again. I want to feel the same powerful, nameless urge that I used to feel when I turned to my books. The breath of desire that then arose from the coloured backs of the books, shall fill me again, melt the heavy, dead lump of lead that lies somewhere in me and waken again the impatience of the future, the quick joy in the world of thought, it shall bring back again the lost eagerness of my youth. I sit and wait.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

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I ought never to have come here. Out there I was indifferent and often hopeless; I will never be able to be so again. I was a soldier, and now I am nothing but an agony for myself, for my mother, for everything that is so comfortless and without end.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

I am frightened: I dare think this way no more. This way lies the abyss. It is not now the time but I will not lose these thoughts, I will keep them, shut them away until the war is ended. My heart beats fast: this is the aim, the great, the sole aim, that I have thought of in the trenches; that I have looked for as the only possibility of existence after this annihilation of all human feeling; this is a task that will make life afterward worthy of these hideous years.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

Now I hear muffled voices. To judge by the tone that might be Kat talking…These voices, these quiet words, these footsteps in the trench behind me recall me at a bound from the terrible loneliness and fear of death by which I had been almost destroyed. They are more to me than life, these voices, they are more than motherliness and more than fear; they are the strongest, most comforting thing there is anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades. I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness;—I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life, we are nearer than lovers, in a simpler, a harder way; I could bury my face in them, in these voices, these words that have saved me and will stand by me.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Stanislaus Katczinsky
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

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This is the first time I have killed with my hands, whom I can see close at hand, whose death is my doing. Kat and Kropp and Müller have experienced it already, when they have hit someone; it happens to many, in hand-to-hand fighting especially— But every gasp lays my heart bare. This dying man has time with him, he has an invisible dagger with which he stabs me: Time and my thoughts.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Stanislaus Katczinsky, Müller, Albert Kropp
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

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"Comrade, I did not want to kill you…But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction…now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship…Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony—Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Take twenty years of my life, comrade, and stand up—take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now."

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker), Gérard Duval
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

Thus we live a closed, hard existence of the utmost superficiality, and rarely does an incident strike out a spark. But then unexpectedly a flame of grievous and terrible yearning flares up.

Those are the dangerous moments. They show us that the adjustment is only artificial, that it is not simple rest, but sharpest struggle for rest.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

And men will not understand us—for the generation that grew up before us, though it has passed these years with us already had a home and a calling; now it will return to its old occupations, and the war will be forgotten—and the generation that has grown up after us will be strange to us and push us aside. We will be superfluous even to ourselves, we will grow older, a few will adapt themselves, some others will merely submit, and most will be bewildered;—the years will pass by and in the end we shall fall into ruin.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer (speaker)
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

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He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.

Related Characters: Paul Bäumer
Page Number: 296
Explanation and Analysis:

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Paul Bäumer Character Timeline in All Quiet on the Western Front

The timeline below shows where the character Paul Bäumer appears in All Quiet on the Western Front. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
...camp after two weeks of fighting on the frontlines. Their unit has sustained heavy casualties. Paul Bäumer, the novel’s nineteen-year-old narrator, reports matter-of-factly that over half of the Company’s 150 men... (full context)
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Good food is scarce on the front, so Paul and his friends quickly make their way to the camp’s mess tent. Because so many... (full context)
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After eating, Paul and his fellow soldiers pay a visit to the group latrines together. Paul recalls how,... (full context)
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Paul and his friends spend their first afternoon back relaxing, playing cards, and reading letters from... (full context)
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Paul says that there were “thousands of Kantoreks” in Germany: people who believed they were doing... (full context)
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In addition to the four students, Paul’s group of friends also includes some older soldiers: the skinny locksmith Tjaden; the gigantic peat-digger... (full context)
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As the soldiers leave the hospital, Paul thinks about the letter he must soon write to Kemmerich’s mother when her son dies.... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Paul thinks about how, as a student, he had aspired to become a writer. Now, however,... (full context)
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Paul recalls his first experiences of army life as a young recruit. He and his former... (full context)
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Paul goes to visit the dying Kemmerich alone in the hospital again the next day. Paul’s... (full context)
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After a long and painful struggle, Kemmerich finally dies. Though Paul feels a surge of intense grief, there is no time to properly mourn for his... (full context)
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As Paul heads back to his hut, he finds himself walking faster and faster until he suddenly... (full context)
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When Paul reaches the hut, his friend Müller is waiting outside for him. Paul doesn’t say anything... (full context)
Chapter 3
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
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...them new recruits who have never seen battle. They are only two years younger than Paul and his former classmates, but they seem like helpless children. In comparison to these hapless... (full context)
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Paul recalls some of Kat’s most spectacular discoveries, marveling at the man’s almost supernatural ability to... (full context)
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...long hours of instruction, physical exercise, and chores, it was paradise compared to the front. Paul says the men “dare not” think back any further, as that would involve discussing their... (full context)
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...who has lost the bet, grudgingly hands over the last beer to the victorious Kat. Paul is still thinking about Himmelstoss, who was a postman before the war began. When Paul... (full context)
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Paul recalls how the men had finally gotten back at Himelstoss after weeks of plotting. One... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...being shot, so the ride is bumpy and the men are often nearly thrown off. Paul says the men are not concerned, however, as a broken arm is “better than a... (full context)
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The trucks pass by a farmhouse, where Paul hears geese cackling. He glances at Kat, who has had the same thought: the geese... (full context)
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When the men finally arrive at the artillery lines, Paul notices that the gun-mounts are camouflaged with bushes, giving the scene an almost festive appearance.... (full context)
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Paul describes the transformation that takes place in the soldiers when they reach the front. The... (full context)
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The soldier’s relationship to his environment also changes on the front. According to Paul, no man is closer to the earth than the soldier, who becomes a kind of... (full context)
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...trenches, survival requires a mixture of luck and instinctual reaction. The animal instinct for survival, Paul says, “far quicker, much more sure” than conscious thought. For example, a soldier may throw... (full context)
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...continue towards the front. The sight of the troops filing silently along the road strikes Paul as strangely beautiful, like “knights of a forgotten time” marching off to battle. As they... (full context)
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...take them back to camp. Most lie down and try to sleep despite the noise. Paul briefly drifts off and wakes up disoriented. For a second he thinks he has woken... (full context)
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Paul spots one of the new recruits lying terrified on the ground. Reminded of his dead... (full context)
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...to fall on the men as they walk through a graveyard. Searching blindly for cover, Paul discovers the shells have burst open the graves. Without hesitation, he crawls into an open... (full context)
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...gas attack are tense, as the men wait to discover whether their masks are airtight. Paul breathes cautiously, watching the clouds of gas sink into the shell-hole as a second bombardment... (full context)
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Kat and Paul go over to help bandage the injured soldier’s wounds. Paul realizes it is the young... (full context)
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...buried in the same spot. As the men board the lorries it begins to rain; Paul thinks about the rain falling monotonously all over the world, over the living, the wounded,... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
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...his family. He takes out a photo of his wife and passes it around. Now Paul joins the conversation too, pointing out that Kat, unlike the young students, actually has a... (full context)
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...the men worry about what jobs they will work once they return to civilian life. Paul confesses that peace-time seems like an unattainable concept, and that he is sickened by the... (full context)
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At Kat’s suggestion, Paul breaks into a barn to steal two geese. He tries to kill the birds quickly,... (full context)
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As the two men sit in the dead of night and cook their geese, Paul reflects that they have a profound bond—he and Kat represent sparks of life surrounded by... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Paul recognizes that life on the front is uncertain, and that chance alone determines whether he... (full context)
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...made by either side. Kat is dejected—he predicts intense violence to begin soon—and this worries Paul, because Kat is an experienced frontline fighter. Only Tjaden remains unsuspicious and content during the... (full context)
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...At midday, one of the new recruits begins convulsing and tries to escape the front. Paul says the recruit suffers from claustrophobia, and the other soldiers beat the raving man in... (full context)
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The dugout Paul is inside sustains a direct hit, and only barely remains intact. The claustrophobic recruit goes... (full context)
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...grenades into the no-man’s-land between the trenches and recognize a charging line of French soldiers. Paul sees an enemy soldier fall into barbed wire with his hands clasped in front of... (full context)
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The company begins to retreat. Paul makes eye contact with an enemy soldier, and the connection momentarily removes him from the... (full context)
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...turned the men into animals defending themselves against annihilation. The soldiers continue to flee, and Paul reaches a manned German trench. From this point, the Germans begin to drive back the... (full context)
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Paul and his comrades return to their frontlines. They are so drained by their experience that... (full context)
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Paul is placed on evening sentry duty. During the night he is haunted by unsettlingly calm... (full context)
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The back-and-forth attacks continue for days. Paul’s company tries to collect the dead, but some of the injured are too far away... (full context)
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After another brief lull in fighting, a bombardment begins. Inexperienced recruits die in droves, and Paul notices that their faces have the expressionlessness of dead children. Paul comes across Himmelstoss cowering... (full context)
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Haie suffers a significant wound and fears for his life. Finally, Paul and his fellow soldiers are relieved from the frontlines. At roll call, Paul discovers that... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Paul’s company is taken to a depot in order to reorganize and accommodate more than 100... (full context)
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Paul reflects that while he and the other soldiers manage to distract themselves while they’re on... (full context)
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Paul and Kropp come across a poster for an old army performance in which a pretty... (full context)
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Paul, Leer, and Kropp sneak over to the girls’ house and fraternize with the women. Paul... (full context)
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Paul is given a pass for a seventeen-day leave. After his leave, Paul will not return... (full context)
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Impatient to leave, Paul begins his journey home. As he draws nearer to the place he grew up in,... (full context)
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Paul feels strangely detached from his home, and feels as if there is a “veil” between... (full context)
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While aimlessly walking through the streets of his hometown, Paul is reprimanded for failing to salute a major. The major demands Paul’s information, and tells... (full context)
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Paul feels repulsed by the curiosity people have about his military service, and appreciates his mother... (full context)
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Leave is different from what Paul expected, and he takes this to indicate that he himself has changed. He is put... (full context)
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Sitting in his childhood room, Paul longs to feel as though he belongs, and wishes for the intellectual hunger he used... (full context)
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Paul goes to visit Mittelstaedt at the barracks, and discovers that Kantorek has been given a... (full context)
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Leave, for Paul, is “a pause that only makes everything after it so much worse.” He begins to... (full context)
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Paul goes to visit Kemmerich’s mother. She is an anxious mess, and demands that Paul tell... (full context)
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It is Paul’s last evening at home. Late that night, his mother comes into his room, and Paul... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Paul arrives at the training camp, and recognizes few people. The camp is in idyllic countryside,... (full context)
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Adjacent to Paul’s camp is a prison camp for captured Russians, who must sift through the Germans’ garbage... (full context)
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Paul reflects that the Germans and the Russians understand one another very little. He observes that... (full context)
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Paul becomes frightened by these thoughts, and decides to repress them until the war is over.... (full context)
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Nearly every day sees the death of a Russian prisoner, and Paul is placed on guard duty for one of the burials. After the funeral, Paul listens... (full context)
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Because he already was given a leave, Paul gets none on Sundays. On his last Sunday before returning to the front, his father... (full context)
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Paul’s father and sister leave him with jam and potato-cakes his mother has made. Paul tries... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Paul travels back to the frontlines to rejoin his regiment, and is pleased to find Tjaden,... (full context)
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...anticipation of a visit from the Kaiser. When the Kaiser arrives to inspect the troops, Paul is underwhelmed by his appearance. Tjaden muses that despite the Kaiser’s prestige, he goes to... (full context)
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...and shattered trees. Some of the trees hold dead soldiers, and in one of them, Paul sees a legless, naked corpse. (full context)
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Paul volunteers to go on a patrol to assess the strength of the enemy’s position. A... (full context)
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After some time spent paralyzed in his hiding place, Paul hears the voices of the other German soldiers on patrol, and finds them deeply comforting.... (full context)
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A bombardment begins, and Paul realizes that an enemy charge will soon follow. He pretends to be dead, and spreads... (full context)
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The dying enemy soldier gurgles for hours. It is the first time Paul has killed anyone with his hands, and he has never before seen the destruction he... (full context)
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The sunset comes, and Paul senses his time to escape. His desire to live flares and he quickly forgets about... (full context)
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The next morning, Paul can no longer keep the man he has killed a secret. He tells Kat and... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Paul, Kat, Albert, Müller, Tjaden, and Detering are sent to guard an abandoned village. They find... (full context)
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...another village. As the men watch the miserable villagers pass by, their formation is shelled. Paul is wounded and must help a severely injured Albert to safety. Paul is then sent... (full context)
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Paul and Albert bribe a sergeant-major with cigars in order to get on the next hospital... (full context)
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There are eight men in Paul and Albert’s room. On the third night, a man named Franz Wächter begins to bleed... (full context)
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Paul receives an operation because his bones will not grow back together. The hospital surgeons look... (full context)
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In Paul’s room is a forty-year-old, Lewandowski, who has spent ten months in the hospital. He receives... (full context)
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Paul is given convalescent leave. He returns home, parting with Kropp, whose recovery is going relatively... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Paul has begun to think of war as a chronic illness, like cancer or tuberculosis. Germans... (full context)
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Pragmatic considerations are, to Paul, the “real problems” that are necessary to consider. The men all live on the same... (full context)
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...the tree and carries them with him, to remind him of his orchard at home. Paul notices Detering acting strangely and packing up his gear, and advises the peasant not to... (full context)
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...for half an hour, and is conscious of his intense suffering. Before dying, Müller gives Paul his pocket-book and his boots—the very same boots that once belonged to Kemmerich. Paul promises... (full context)
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
Paul and his comrades are especially horrified by the tanks that assault them. Because the tanks... (full context)
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
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The Lost Generation Theme Icon
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The Hypocrisy of the Older Generation Theme Icon
Paul’s Company Commander, a courageous man named Bertinck, is killed, though he fights against the enemy... (full context)
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Kat, Paul’s last friend left in the army, is shot in the shin as he and Paul... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Autumn arrives, and Paul is one of the few “old hands” left on the front. He is the last... (full context)
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The Lost Generation Theme Icon
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Paul is placed on a two-week rest after swallowing some poisonous gas. He spends his days... (full context)
The Lost Generation Theme Icon
Paul realizes that men will not understand the returning soldiers. The war will be forgotten, and... (full context)
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The Lost Generation Theme Icon
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Perhaps, Paul hopes, his melancholy will fly away once he returns home—maybe his desire to learn and... (full context)
The Horror of Modern War Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
A third-person narrator describes a soldier—presumably, but not explicitly Paul—being killed in October of 1918, on a day that was otherwise so safe that it... (full context)