Paul Baumer is very perceptive in his characterization of the other characters in Chapter 1. It is clear that he holds a special affection for the three boys with whom he once was classmates, Albert Kropp, Muller, and Leer, as well as for those comrades he calls friends, Tjaden, Haie Westhus, Detering, and Stanislaus Katczinsky. Paul knows these individuals well, and acquaints the reader with their unique personalities and idiosyncracies - Kropp is "the clearest thinker", Muller "still carries his school textbooks...(and) dreams of examinations", Leer has "a preference for the girls from officers' brothels, Tjaden is "the biggest eater", Westhus is a peat-digger, large and strong, Detering is a peasant who misses his farm and his wife, and Katczinsky, at forty, is the leader. Despite his obvious closeness to these men, however, Paul is temperate in speaking about them, almost detached. Having witnessed the gory deaths of so many of his comrades, he knows that the reality is that any one of them could be gone in a minute, and has hardened himself to this fact.
In talking about his companions and the things that happen to them, Paul speaks with a tone of sardonic realism. Like the others, he has become by necessity callous, and yet he retains a sense of decency and sensitivity that some of his comrades have lost. Although he is united with them in his disdain for Kantorek, the schoolmaster who pressured them to enlist in order to serve their country, he does not really blame him for their situation, understanding the old man is part of a generation which is totally out of touch with reality. And when Paul goes to visit a wounded brother, Kemmerich, he "cannot bear to look at his hands", which have the tinge of death upon them, and repeatedly nudges Muller to be discreet when the boy, realizing that Kemmerich is doomed, aggressively jockeys to get his boots (Chapter 1).