Much like Tim O'Brien's character in The Things They Carried, Paul Baumer is a sensitive, compassionate narrator whose comrades' deaths heighten his awareness that war is absurd.
Initially, Paul enlists with his comrades out of nationalistic fervor. Obviously naive, he joins the collective, not yet in touch with sense of individual morality. Later, after he experiences the horrors of trench warfare and his friend die, one-by-one, he grows to savor human relationships more passionately.
The turning point of Paul's characterization is when he kills another soldier. Like O'Brien's "The Man I Killed," Paul empathizes not only with his German brothers-in-arms, but with the French man he kills, such is his sense of humanity. Paul dies on the day the armistice is signed, signifying the absurdity of all the deaths foretold.