The narrative stance and characterization of this book are quite clever. By claiming to have passed through so many lives, the narrator can not only write in the first person but also maintain an omniscient viewpoint. He has seen history not through the eyes of God but through a number of different characters. He has the best of both narrative worlds. By virtue of having lived so many lives, the narrator can also take on a variety of personalities. He is a simpering, young boy in one life and a brutal wife-beating husband in another. He moves like a specter across the spectrum of possible personalities, becoming one type then transforming into another. He is never constricted by his characters, for they change with the era in which they live and with their station in life. Some are bishops, others fishermen. All are shaped by the circumstances of their lives. In this way, the narrator can be both himself and any other man he chooses.
Similarly, the female characters vary greatly. Some are kind. Others are cruel. Still others show elements of both qualities. Even though there are probably thirty different women in this book (the vast majority of characters are women), Grass manages to draw a distinct personality for each one. None, not even the most minor of characters, seems like an archetype. All have their quirks, foibles, and idiosyncrasies.
With so many characters, Grass is able to look at women in many different stations and...
(The entire section is 473 words.)