Both Paul and Harold went through WWI, yet had different reactions to it after they went home. Their backgrounds and perspectives were different, so many of their behaviors are quite opposite.
The most noticeable difference is how they respond to the questions about the war. In ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, Paul gets sick of the obsessions his father and his friends have over the glory of the war. He doesn’t want to talk about the reality of it and avoids talking about its cruelty. Once his mother asks if he suffered there, he lies that there was no pain and she doesn’t have to be worried about it. It is shown on page 161, with Paul saying “No, Mother, not so very. There are always a lot of us together so it isn’t so bad.”
To Harold, this is exactly the opposite. As he was the late one who came back after the war, neighbors didn’t really pay attention to his stories about the war. Even though his mother asked about the war, she didn’t listen to it closely. “She often came in when he was in bed and asked him to tell her about the war, but her attention always wandered.” (Pg.2) So to be listened to, he made up brutal stories, exaggerating what the Germans have done. “Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie and after he had done this twice he, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about it.” (Pg.1)
The way they look back on the war is also different. Paul went through the deaths of his friends that were very close to him. During the brief break, he tries to live like a civilian. He eventually seeks peace in his death. “~his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.” (Pg.296)
In ‘Soldier’s Home’, the author hasn’t mentioned about his loss during the war. Harold seems to be better at accepting the war than how Paul did. He tries to get subjective information about the war, confronting his traumas. “He sat there on the porch reading a book on the war. It was a history and he was reading about all the engagements he had been in. It was the most interesting reading he had ever done. He wished there were more maps.” (Pg.4)
However, when it comes to how they deal with socializing with others, Paul confronts the memories better. Even though almost everything he said to her was false, he still contacts Kemmerich’s mother. He meets his friend, Mittelstaedt, and recalls his happy memories. He feels isolated from the ones who weren’t at the war but didn’t lose his core. He wasn’t swallowed up entirely by the war.
The reason how Harold could face the memories of the war was that he became part of the war. He gives up to become normal again and feels sick about it. Unlike Paul, still having relationships he had made before the war, Harold lost the ability to love. “”I don’t love anybody,” Krebs said.” (Pg.6) None of the jobs can be fitting to him anymore. He cannot move on from the war now. He’s still in the war, with lacks of fortitude to become “normal” again.
Overall, Paul had a loss, avoided talking about it but managed to share feelings with the others. He died during the war, it couldn’t be everything he had. On the other hand, Harold was at the end of the war. The war became his life and took the ability to escape from it.