Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 15, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 787


Zizendorf, the narrator of parts 1 and 3. He is without a family history and almost without personality as well. Although he shows some affection for Jutta, his female counterpart, he displays little emotion. A Nazi soldier during World War II, he becomes Jutta’s lover and the editor of the newspaper The Crooked Zeitung. His plot to assassinate Leevey is motivated by a desire for vengeance and power. Although he believes he is a disillusioned rationalist, he is a madman, the cold-blooded killer of Leevey, Herr Stintz, and the Mayor.

Stella (Madam Snow)

Stella (Madam Snow), a singer at the Sportswelt Brauhaus at the beginning of World War I. Bold and vivacious, she is an embodiment of the German Motherland. Although courted by Cromwell, she marries Ernst Snow, a darkly romantic figure to her, scarred from fighting in duels. Although sentimental on the surface, Stella is an opportunist who sides with the Nazis during World War II. Her son is crippled and her grandson is killed in this war. In the present, she consults her cards for signs of things to come. She longs for the Germany of her youth.

Ernst Snow

Ernst Snow, a morose young man who is dominated and manipulated by his father. He marries Stella. He expresses masochistic tendencies and is scarred frequently in duels with men he consciously identifies with his father. His masochism becomes more extreme in his attempt to escape life through religion. He ultimately identifies with Christ on the cross and longs for death, but his human nature will not be denied. Shortly before he dies, he expresses his long-repressed hatred for his father.


Jutta, Stella’s younger sister, a child during World War I. She rejects religious illusions and discovers sex after she is placed in a nunnery following the deaths of her parents. Believing that life “was not miraculous but clear, not right but undeniable” and married to a Nazi soldier during World War II, she is the perfect mate for Zizendorf.


Cromwell, an English Germanophile who claims to have no home. He believes technology is the key to the future and represents dehumanizing order. Although he loses Stella to Ernst during World War I, he wins her, in a sense, when she sides with the Nazis in World War II.

The Census-Taker

The Census-Taker, a drunk and a voyeur. He watches Zizendorf and Jutta make love. He has no function in the town because its population has neither increased nor declined. Zizendorf refers to him as “my relic-brother,” thereby revealing potential weaknesses in himself, which he must repress to carry out his plans.

Herr Stintz

Herr Stintz, a one-eyed schoolteacher and former tuba player in the orchestra. An honest man, he tells Zizendorf that no one can get away with anything. He takes Selvaggia out to witness the assassination of Leevey. This is a necessary violation of innocence, an act of education. In contrast, Zizendorf tells Selvaggia to go back to sleep. Herr Stintz’s condition and fate represent the condition and fate of art and education in the novel.


Selvaggia, Jutta’s daughter, who represents the child in everyone, the witness more or less continually violated by atrocity.


Leevey, an American Jew, the overseer of one-third of Germany. He is ironically linked with Zizendorf, his killer, through their mutual association with machines and technology. Zizendorf takes Leevey’s watch, which represents dehumanized order. Zizendorf makes love to Jutta on the day of Leevey’s assassination; paralleling that, Leevey has sex with a spiteful and diseased German whore.

The Duke

The Duke, identified only by his title. He pursues Jutta’s son throughout the 1945 sections of the novel, finally killing and butchering him, then cooking him and feeding the meal to Madam Snow.


Balamir, the son of the German kaiser of World War I, or so he believes. One of the inmates of the asylum, he represents the Germany of Stella’s youth, which she hopes to revive. She abandons her faith in him when he fails to unearth the furniture buried in her basement.

The boy

The boy, Jutta’s son, who flees from the Duke until he is caught and killed. Like his sister, Selvaggia, he is an image of childhood innocence. He may be identified specifically with the innocence of youth sacrificed in wars resulting from ideals of conquest and heroism.

The Mayor

The Mayor, the cowardly betrayer of the innocent Pastor Miller. He turns away when Miller is executed and sleeps through most of the action. Too blind to tend to the chronicles of history, and with his memory obliterated, he is nevertheless tormented in dreams by images of Pastor Miller. He represents an oblivious political bureaucracy.

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