Illustration of Paul Baumer in a German army uniform with a red background

All Quiet on the Western Front

by Erich Maria Remarque

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What are Paul's character traits in All Quiet on the Western Front?

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Paul Baumer is the protagonist of All Quiet on the Western Front. He is presented as a typical German youth of his generation. He likes to socialize and drink with his friends and woo young women. Paul also has an emotional and artistic side. When the story begins, he is as eager as most of his peers to sign up for the war effort. At this point in the story, he is patriotic and idealistic. These traits are fostered by his teacher, Kantorek, who convinces many of his students to enlist.

As Paul experiences the horrors and deprivations of war, his character changes. He grows critical of those in power in particular and of the older generation in general. Unlike some of his comrades, Paul does not grow cynical. He still believes that there is hope left in the world, even if none can be seen from the front lines. He does not abandon his morals and still has a love of humanity. This is showcased in chapter 9 when he is stuck in a crater with a French soldier he has just mortally wounded. He attempts to bandage the enemy's wounds and give him water. When the soldier dies, Paul pleads with the corpse to forgive him, explaining that he never wanted to kill anyone.

Camaraderie is very important to Paul. His relationships with his fellow soldiers are his sustaining force. He recognizes that he and his friends are just typical young men trying to do what is right when everything around them is wrong. He feels most at ease around them. When he goes on leave and returns home in chapter 7, he feels disconnected, even alienated. Each time one of his friends dies, a little bit of Paul's humanity dies with them.

Overall, what makes Paul an effective narrator for this story is his ability to think critically. His insight into how those of his generation has been robbed of their potential and their humanity highlights the tragedy of the war. However, he presents such insights without condemnation or harsh judgment.

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