List of Characters
Oskar Schell—nine-year-old main protagonist.
Oskar's mother—no name given, except "mother" or "Mom."
Thomas Schell—Oskar's father. He dies in the Twin Towers.
Thomas Schell—Oskar's grandfather (no junior or senior used for either Oskar’s father or his grandfather Oskar's father).
Oskar's Grandmother—no name given, except "Grandmother." The doorman refers to her as Ms. Schmidt only once in the story, her maiden name.
Ron—Oskar's mother's male friend who has lost his wife and child.
Anna—Oskar's grandmother's sister who died in Germany. She was in love with Oskar’s grandfather and was pregnant with his child.
Masako Tomoyasu—young woman who dies in Hiroshima bombing, in a video that Oskar presents to his class.
Mrs. Tomoyasu—Masako's mother.
Dr. Fein—Oskar's psychiatrist.
Stan—doorman at Oskar's apartment building.
Farley—doorman at Oskar's grandmother's building.
Simon Goldberg—Jewish intellectual who was befriended by Anna's father in Germany.
Gerald Thompson—limousine driver who take Oskar to the cemetery.
Toothpaste and The Minch—Oskar says these are his best friends, but they never appear in the novel.
William Black—the man who solves the mystery of the key.
Abby Black—William Black's ex-wife.
A.R. Black—the elderly man who lives in Oskar's building and helps Oskar search for the lock for Oskar’s key.
(The entire section is 216 words.)
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Most of Foer's novel is told through the nine-year-old Oskar. Oskar is easy to like, at least as a narrator. As a peer, he might be a little hard to take. Many of Oskar's classmates, for instance, find it difficult to understand or accept him. Oskar knows a lot and likes to share his knowledge. He also thinks in ways that most kids, and adults, find rather peculiar. But as a storyteller, the voice of Oskar is both entertaining and fresh. He is able to convey his feelings without sounding like he is begging for sympathy. It is easy to empathize with his pain without feeling like you are being dragged into an emotional swamp.
Oskar's intelligence is seen mostly through his huge imagination and curiosity. He loves solving mysteries but this skill is both a blessing and curse. He can distract himself from his problems by delving into some intriguing puzzle, like the key he found in his father's closet. But he also has trouble getting over his father's death because he is constantly trying to envision how his father died. He feels he cannot rest until he has the answer.
Oskar's openness (which sometimes is not as open as people around him think) invites those around him to be open. True, he flatters women a lot, believing this will help him get what he wants from them; but his flattery also makes the women smile or even laugh, with him, not at him. He makes them feel good. He brings out the best in people, such as he does with Mr. A. R. Black, who has not left his apartment in decades. Sometimes Oskar would like to curse people when they disappoint him or make him mad, but he is smart enough to not allow the thought of revenge go farther than a fantasy. He controls himself and hides his sadness as best he can.
Sometimes repressing his emotions does not work very well. He has nowhere to vent, so he takes out his sadness on himself, giving himself bruises as substitutes for his bruised psyche. He holds too much inside. He does this because he believes it is the best thing to do, not for himself, but for others. He does not want to hurt his mother or his grandmother.
Oskar's mother seems overly involved in her own problems to the point of missing all the clues that Oskar throws out. He needs her attention. She wants to be happy again, so she has developed a relationship with a peer, a person she can talk to about her feelings. But Oskar needs someone too....
(The entire section is 585 words.)