Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Paul Bäumer (powl BOY-mehr), a nineteen-year-old soldier in the German army during World War I. Because he has been drafted so young, he wonders what he will be able to do to earn a living if he ever becomes a civilian again. In a battle, he stabs a French soldier and then, filled with remorse, tries to relieve the dying man’s pain. When his conscience hurts him afterward, his comrades tell him that he has committed no crime. As the war drags on and more of his comrades fall, Paul becomes lonely and philosophical, but the meaning of the war still eludes him. One day in October, 1918, a quiet day on the Western front shortly before the war’s end, he is killed by a stray bullet.
Albert Kropp, a German soldier, one of Paul’s comrades. He loses a leg and is jealous of Paul, who, though wounded, loses no limbs.
Müller (MYEWL-ur), a German soldier, a comrade of Paul. He gets Kemmerich’s boots when the man is killed. Later, at his death, the boots go to Paul.
Leer, a German soldier, one of Paul’s comrades.
Stanislaus Katczinsky (STAH-nihs-lows kaht-SHIHNS-kee), a German soldier nicknamed Kat. When he is wounded, Paul tries to rescue him, only...
(The entire section is 375 words.)
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As narrator of All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul Baumer records the grim realities of war in the daily routines and terrible deaths that involve his classmates and comrades. Filled with patriotic zest and romantic notions about war, they hasten to enlist, but once in basic training they lose some of their illusions as they are tyrannized by Corporal Himmelstoss, a former postman, who constantly insults them and badgers them with a "thousand pettifogging details." Still, they are eager for battle until inevitably, inexorably they are either maimed or killed — Behm is the first to fall, shot in No Man's Land; Kemmerich is wounded, his leg amputated, and he dies three days later; Haie Westhus dies from a great wound in his back through which his lung pulses; Hans Kramer's body is blown to pieces by a direct hit; Martens loses his legs; Meyer, Hammerling, Byer, and Detering are all killed.
Another major character is the forty-year-old Sergeant Stansislaus Katczinsky (Kat), superb scrounger of food and battle weary and wary. Kat becomes Baumer's surrogate father, and, by extension, a surrogate father for Baumer's friends whom he guides, advises, and initiates into the hell of war. For Baumer, Kat is a positive force because of his age and because he has survived so long at the front and appears invincible. Ironically, however, just as Baumer loses his classmates, so too does he lose Kat, who is wounded in the leg but dies from a shell splinter to...
(The entire section is 358 words.)
The sensitive twenty-year-old narrator (he has written poems and a play called "Saul") reaches manhood through three years of service as a soldier in the second company of the German army during World War I. His loss of innocence during the cataclysm is the focus of the author's anti-war sentiment. If one views this book as a roman a clef (a thinly veiled autobiographical novel), he is telling the basic story of Erich Maria Remarque. Although he feels cut off and alienated from past values two years after the war begins, Paul is compassionate to his dying friends. In camaraderie, the author suggests, is salvation. One by one, Paul sees his comrades die; he also stabs a French soldier, a death that torments him profoundly. He is killed by a stray bullet just before the declaration of the armistice. Critics differ on the degree to which Baumer is Remarque, but the general consensus is that Paul Baumer is foremost a fictional creation who recounts a story that evokes the absurdity of war.
(The entire section is 172 words.)
He is the company commander and is regarded as a magnificent front-line officer. His heroism is shown through his knocking out an advancing flame thrower.
He is a peasant from Oldenburg, who worries about his wife alone in their farm. He grows particularly nostalgic when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and he hates to hear the horses bellowing in agony. After he deserts, he is captured and never heard from again. As in the case of most of the characters in the novel, he is another example of someone without a future who simply exists in a meaningless world.
Lying in a shell hole during a bombardment, Paul suddenly finds the French soldier Gerard Duval on top of him. Instinctively Paul kills Duval, a typesetter in civilian life, by knifing him to death. The soldier's demise is slow and painful, and, overcome by guilt, Paul tries to ease his suffering. After the Frenchman dies, he searches his wallet for an address and finds letters and pictures of his wife and child.
The patriotic schoolteacher, who instructs Paul and his twenty classmates to sign up for military duty, typifies the many such teachers in Germany during World War I. While their idealism was sincere, it was also misguided. Paul expresses his rage at Kantorek's unrealistic view of war that proved dangerous and fatal to most of his class, the "Iron Youth," as Kantorek calls...
(The entire section is 656 words.)