Although war hovers in the background of the narrative, the major theme of Arch of Triumph is a love affai r between Ravic and Joan Madou, another refugee. Since each needs the other as a stabilizing element in an uncertain life, they fall in love, have a romantic vacation in the Antibes, but from the beginning their love affai r is both temporary and doomed because of his refugee status and because of the oncoming war. In fact, their doomed love foreshadows the fate of Paris which is tottering on the brink of World War II; or, as Kate Hegstroem, who is dying from cancer, says: "Two wars within twenty years — that's too much. We are still tired from the first."
Variations of doomed love affairs will appear in Remarque's The Black Obelisk (1957), The Night in Lisbon (1963), and Shadows in Paradise (1972).