Paul thinks about his unfinished play and poems at home. Sometimes he works on it, as do other soldiers on their own writing, but he no longer comprehends it; the young soldier's past life is forgotten the moment he enlists in the war. The older men, however, have a strong enough background that cannot be destroyed. Despite their lack of a past and inability to think beyond the war, the young men are "not often sad." Paul defends Müller's pragmatism in wanting Kemmerich's boots; if Kemmerich could use them, Müller would never consider taking them.
Paul describes how the boys were different when they enlisted. Twenty young men with no plans for the future proudly and patriotically enlisted. Their ten-week training prepared them for subservience to military authority. Their class was sent out among various platoons; Paul, Kropp, Müller, and Kemmerich joined No. 9 platoon under the disciplinarian Corporal Himmelstoss. The Corporal immediately disliked Paul and some of his friends, recognizing some defiance in them, and punished them with arduous tasks. Still, the training prepared them well; had they not had it so rough, Paul believes they would have gone mad in the trenches. They also developed the "finest thing that arose out of the war--comradeship."