The themes of death, loss and emotional trauma saturate this novel, and each of the major characters is trying somehow to come to terms with some form of immense tragedy. For Oskar's grandfather, his tragedy is focused on the bombing of Dresden which robbed him not only of his home and family, but also of his love and his unborn child. The historical significance of Dresden is that it was very infamously firebombed by the British during World War II, completely destroying swathes of the city and causing vast numbers of human casualties. The description that Oskar's grandfather gives us of being a victim of the firebombing explores the themes of death, loss and emotional trauma:
...it became more and more difficult to breathe, my lungs were trying to pull the room in through my mouth, there was a silver explosion, all of us tried to leave the cellar at once, dead and dying people were trampled, I walked over an old man, I walked over children, everyone was losing everyone, the bombs were like a waterfall...
The descriptions that follow clearly explain why Oskar's grandfather is a figure who is trapped in the past and who is unable to deal with his terrible grief at what has happened to him. The Dresden firebombing therefore is a historical backdrop, just as 9/11 is, to explore the psychological response of some of the central characters. Death and tragedy and how humans respond to them is the focus of this novel.
Thank you so much! :)