“How could you be my enemy?”

I want to open a spot for discussion here.

In chapter nine, Paul achieves his first personal kill in the war by mortally wounding a French soldier. Instead of leaving him to die, however, Paul is overcome with immense guilt and tries to make the man’s passing comfortable- or about as comfortable you can be on the battlefield.

The point of interest is the little speech he gives after the soldier dies. He claims to have finally seen that this man wasn’t just an enemy soldier, but a person with a family and a life just like him.

“Why do they never tell us that you poor devils are like us… that we have the same fear of death… how could you be my enemy?”

We have talked about desensitization and the “spell” of it being broken in class. Only instead of it happening at home, it’s happened to Paul on the battlefield. Despite everything Paul has been through at this point, has the war been made more real for him? Paul no longer considers himself a child- the war has changed him- but had he still held a certain ignorance that killing soldier killed as well? Does the fact he decides not to keep the promises he made the dead soldier subvert any sort of realization he may have had?