Themes and Meanings
Günter Grass grew up in the region about which he writes in Dog Years. He was a young Nazi and served in the German army. Only after the war did he come to realize how evil the Nazis were. His novel sets out to show how a whole society collaborated in the creation of Fascism. Germans were proud of their fuhrer. They wanted to dominate the weak, to expand the nation’s power, and to create a master race. There were very few dissenters. Grass shows that even where Jews were completely assimilated into the community (as Eddi Amsel was), they were doomed. Eddi survives only by changing his identity and fleeing Danzig.
What makes Eddi’s fate particularly dreadful is that he and Walter are, in a sense, parts of the same self. No less than Eddi, Walter is an outcast. He is expelled from group after group because he does not fit in. He takes up a career as an actor, plays many roles, but is accepted nowhere. Similarly, Eddi adopts many guises (Herr Brauxel, “Goldmouth,” and others), but he never finds acceptance as himself.
Eddi’s creation of scarecrows is a mockery of the German people who have acted as though they have no souls. When Eddi creates mechanical figures that are propelled by a mechanism in their bellies, Harry Liebenau recalls, “We felt our own bellies, looking for the mechanism inside us: Tulla had one.” Tulla has one because she is the quintessential Nazi: obedient and actively evil. If Harry cannot feel his own...
(The entire section is 530 words.)