FEMALE ENCOUNTERS -- Discuss Paul’s response to the girl pictured on the old poster. What is he thinking? Why does the author include this scene in the novel? What do we learn about the soldiers?
Paul responds to the girl on the poster with amazement. They could hardly believe, he says, that "such things still exist." She is beautiful and well-dressed, and Paul notices that she is clean, a contrast to the muddy, lice-infested soldiers. They associate her with peace, "happiness, beauty and joy." Paul is also struck by how much the poster makes him realize that he has changed. While admiring the poster, he says "just look at those thin shoes, though, she couldn't march many miles in those." He recognizes what a silly thing it is to look at a beautiful woman and think of marching. Above all, the poster makes the boys more eager to experience normalcy. This is achieved, in part, when they swim across the canal to meet the girls they have been talking to across the water the previous night.