90 pages • 3 hours readErich Maria Remarque
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Paul is the first-person narrator for almost the entire novel, and of the characters in the story, he most aligns with the actual author, Erich Maria Remarque. Like Paul, Remarque also served at the front during WW I. Another connection between Remarque and his narrator is that Paul was an aspiring writer before joining the war, a detail which he shares with the reader fairly early in the novel in Chapter 2.
As is the nature of first-person narratives, the reader is provided the most amount of insight into the narrator’s thoughts rather than the other characters. Through Paul, we can see how he perceives the events that happen around him because he shares his many interior monologues with us. At times, Paul is confounded by what he sees. When he returns home, he recognizes how shattered he truly is. He is aghast at his own actions while stranded in a shell-hole and commits murder when a man stumbles into the hole accidentally. Through Paul, we are drawn into the carnage of the war, the brutality of the actual fighting, and the devastation that lies in wait for those who somehow manage to survive the war.
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Paul is also fiercely loyal toward his bothers-in-arms, and we see the other characters through his eyes.