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As Paul hears footsteps around his hole, a body falls in. Paul strikes at the body, and the man convulses and becomes limp. When he gurgles, Paul viciously wants to quiet him by stabbing him and stuffing his mouth with earth, but he soon regains control. Paul wants to leave, but the machine-gunfire makes that impossible. He waits with the gurgling body.His compassion for the dying Frenchman is greater than that for the Russian prisoners, and approaches an almost pathological level. Paul believes his life is intertwined with the Frenchman's, and he even vows, at one point, to become a printer as well. Ironically, Paul reacts more strongly here than he did with his mother as she lay dying at home. Perhaps it is because Paul has directly killed this man, but maybe this situation awakens dormant feelings he held toward his mother that he could not express.
Paul also thinks about fate and chance again, considering the possibilities that might have allowed the Frenchman to live. But just as the origins of the war are impossible to untangle, he recognizes it is useless to retrace steps in battle; war makes the choices, not men.