Paul Baumer is the main character in All Quiet on the Western Front. The story is told through his point of view. One incident that defines Paul occurs on the battlefield. Paul is taking cover in a crater during an attack when a French soldier jumps in, also seeking cover. Paul, fearing for his life, stabs the Frenchman with his bayonet. Instead of dying immediately, the Frenchman struggles all night long, gasping for breath. Paul, horrified at watching this slow, agonizing death, does not attack the man again. Eventually he tries to help him, but he then dies. Paul then feels that they “could have been brothers.”
Katczinsky is the grizzled old veteran who teaches the young recruits the ways of life on the front line. He is known for his ability to find food in the unlikeliest of places. At one point he finds some geese and he and the men have a feast. He also teaches the men the “etiquette” of war—they are not to notch their bayonets. This, he says, is an agreement that they have with the enemy.
Tjaden is a sensitive and emotional soldier who still had a bedwetting problem into adulthood. When their training officer, Himmelstoss, humiliates him in front of the other men, Tjaden is deeply hurt. Later, when he encounters Himmelstoss at the front, he makes fun of him mercilessly, even though he is of a lower rank. As Himmelstoss walks away, Tjaden tells him that he “better watch his back.” Although Tjaden was furious, he never acted on this threat.