Oscar Matzerath (mat-tseh-RAHT), a deranged dwarf storyteller who willed himself to stop growing at the age of three to protect himself from the insane society of Nazi Germany. Oscar has magical powers imparted to him by a succession of tin drums. He encounters representatives of virtually all segments of German society and beats his drum as these people accommodate themselves to the Nazi regime to a greater or lesser degree.
Agnes Matzerath, Oscar’s mother, who carries on a love affair with her cousin throughout the first part of the novel. Agnes and other female characters suffer the disabilities imparted by the Nazi attitude toward women, which relegates them to a subordinate position in family relationships and the workplace.
Alfred Matzerath, Agnes’ husband but probably not Oscar’s father. Alfred is a small business owner who willingly embraced the Nazi Party long before Adolf Hitler came to power, as did many other members of his social class. He is myopic and greedy, willing to sacrifice any principle to gain a perceived economic advantage. He dies after the Russian invasion of Danzig by swallowing his Nazi party badge.
Jan Bronski (yahn BRON-skee), Agnes’ Polish cousin, her lover, and probably Oscar’s father. Jan is...
(The entire section is 540 words.)