Characters Discussed

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 679

Bruno A.

Bruno A., called the Son, who in 1938 is a twelve-year-old schoolboy. He looks on helplessly and with only partial comprehension as his family and their comfortable existence fall to pieces in a world of jarring anti-Semitism. Aching for love and warmth from his estranged parents, the boy...

(The entire section contains 980 words.)

See This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this study guide. You'll also get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Bruno A.

Bruno A., called the Son, who in 1938 is a twelve-year-old schoolboy. He looks on helplessly and with only partial comprehension as his family and their comfortable existence fall to pieces in a world of jarring anti-Semitism. Aching for love and warmth from his estranged parents, the boy has intimations of decay and doom that intensify as he is shunted from provincial home to country resort and back again. In the second part of the novel, he is a middle-aged man. He returns to confront childhood ghosts after the breakup of his marriage in Jerusalem.

Father

Father, an Austrian writer and literary critic. His successes bring joy neither to him nor to his family. A tired, absentminded, surly man, he succumbs to bitterness and paranoia as he is attacked for the sickly Jewish spirit of his writing. His hatred of petit bourgeois Jews and raggedOstjuden (Eastern European Jews) is second only to his fear of being regarded as one of them. As anti-Semitism blocks his career and destroys his self-respect, he soothes his soul with alcohol and impossible dreams of a literary and cultural renaissance. This delusion leads him to abandon his family for a baroness in Vienna.

Mother

Mother, a tall, tight-lipped, unhappy woman. She bears her husband’s physical and spiritual distance in stoic fashion and strives to preserve an atmosphere of normalcy and dignity even as Jewishness makes her family an object of derision and loathing. A woman with strong philanthropic impulses, she devotes herself frantically to charitable institutions as her personal life deteriorates. After her husband runs off to Vienna, she dutifully responds to a call from the local rabbi to join the Jews assembling in the synagogue. That night, she is imprisoned with her son and adopted daughter.

Theresa

Theresa, Bruno’s aunt and Mother’s younger sister. She is a diligent university student. Tall like her sister and radiating her inner life, she has the air of a priestess. After a fit of depression lands her in Saint Peter’s sanatorium, she emerges for a family vacation only to be stricken by another fit of otherworldly melancholy. Her psychosis leads her to convert to Christianity with a sacrificial gesture, and soon thereafter she dies suddenly and mysteriously within the walls of Saint Peter’s.

Brum

Brum, a onetime friend of Bruno’s parents. He transforms himself from a thin, ascetic, cowering person into a bold and blunt character, renouncing his Judaism along the way. In the second part of the novel, he is an old, bitter anti-Semite. He receives a beating from Bruno yet never owns up to his Jewish past.

Stark

Stark, a sculptor. Born of a Jewish mother but reared at an “Aryan” military academy, he transmutes the anti-Semitism he encounters into a passionate yearning for his mother’s faith. Much to the horror of Father, this strong-spirited man and erstwhile champion of the family’s dignity has himself circumcised and submits to the squalor of a Jewish almshouse.

Salo

Salo, Father’s brother. Flamboyant and vigorous, he aims to shock his conventional family. He and his mistress are a breeding ground for scandal. Salo belongs to the merchant class that Father detests.

Danzig

Danzig, Bruno’s violin teacher. His attempts to root out the imperfections in his playing have made him a nervous wreck. Plagued by an inferiority complex and an uncontrollable twitching of his left shoulder, he leaves for Australia.

Louise

Louise, a nubile maid, the only vibrant and sensual element in the otherwise icy household. With her rustic innocence and high spirits, she captivates Bruno and his male relatives. Bruno later discovers that Louise, who becomes fat and devoid of charm, once prostituted herself to his uncles.

Helga

Helga, an orphan adopted by Bruno’s family. She gradually loses her untamed, fearless spirit and becomes docile and domesticated.

Suzi

Suzi, the illegitimate daughter of Salo and his mistress. Bruno meets her and her lesbian lover upon his return to Austria. The turmoil and conflicts within her bastard psyche may be regarded as typical of the postwar generation.

The Characters

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 301

Bruno as a boy and his parents and relatives are upper-class, cultivated Central European Jews who regard themselves as comfortably assimilated, with their Judaism only a marginal quirk in their characters. Traditional, religious Eastern Jews are exotic and barbaric specimens to them.

History soon smashes their illusions. Bruno, in the first book, is a sensitive, silent, but increasingly anguished observer of a society that degrades as well as disintegrates. In book 2, he is the age his father is in book 1 and has his own failed marriage—for unspecified reasons. He finds himself a stranger in his birthplace, revisiting a childhood traumatized by circumstances that cannot be expunged.

Bruno’s mother is tender, weak, charitable, conventional, ineffectual. When the town’s rabbi, following official orders, sends registered letters to all members of the Jewish community to come to his temple on a specified day, the mother asks, “What have I to do with them?” Once inside, she brandishes her umbrella at hostile neighbors and hisses, “Shopkeepers!”

The father is a prototype of the European artist as disdainful intellectual. Despising his fellow Jews, he regards himself as an Austrian luminary, with German his native tongue and Hebrew foreign to him. “Haven’t I brought honor to Austria?” he asks jeering Gentile riders in a train compartment. When a distant relative in South America invites the family to resettle there, since Jews are not overtly hated in his land, the father feels insulted that he should be asked to go into business—no respect for the artistic life there, he rages, only for money, property, and survival above all! He tries to survive in his way by abandoning not only his family but also his heritage. His failure as husband, father, and Jew is accompanied by the growing acuity of Bruno’s desolate awareness.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Age of Wonders Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Themes

Next

Critical Essays