The lines about Tjaden are part of a series of impressions. The boys in the group have been assigned "to guard a village that has been abandoned because it is being shelled too heavily...(they) have to watch the supply dump as that is not empty yet". While working this assignment, the boys are well provisioned, being allowed to take what they need from the stores they are guarding. They live for almost two weeks in idyllic conditions of their own making, "eating, drinking, and roaming about". Their situation is highlighted when, out of nowhere, they find "two real young pigs". Gathering potatoes, carrots, green peas, and cauliflower", they are "quite uppish" and prepare "a grand feed". Their meal is augmented by pancakes prepared skillfully among explosions and falling shells; the boys are so inured to war by now that the dangerous barrage barely fazes them. After they have eaten, they sit around, "smoking officer's cigars and cigarettes" and sipping cognac and rum.
It is against this backdrop that the images of Tjaden are presented. The narrator comments that "Tjaden has become so fastidious that he only half smokes his cigars...with his nose in the air he explains to us that he was brought up that way". The men, having had a luxurious meal, are now just messing around, like Tjaden, "put(ting) on extraordinary airs, every man treat(ing) the other as his valet, bounc(ing) him and giv(ing) him orders". In the midst of this light-hearted horseplay, someone addresses Tjaden and orders him to "stand at ease", playfully reprimanding him for responding with an insolent "What?", and instructing him to use the more respectful rejoinder, "Yes, Sir". In the spirit of the exchange, Tjaden comes back with a "well-known phrase from Goethe", which is not clearly stated but which is obviously something impudent, possibly crude, an epithet or a curse (Chapter 10).