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Notes on Characters from The Tin Drum

This section contains 2,638 words
(approx. 9 pages at 300 words per page)

The Tin Drum Major Characters

Oskar Matzerath (Bronski): The main character and narrator of the novel. Oskar willfully stunted his growth at three feet tall as a three-year-old, although later in the novel he grows to four feet one inch. For a majority of the novel, Oskar is never found without his red and white lacquered tin drum, which he plays constantly. He is also endowed for most of his life with the ability to shatter glass with a high pitched scream, though he eventually loses this ability.

Bruno Münsterberg: Oskar's keeper in the mental institution. He keeps and eye on Oskar through a peephole in his bedroom door, and spends his time making elaborate works of knotted art with old pieces of string.

Anna Bronski (Koljaiczek/Wranka): Oskar's maternal grandmother, wearer of four potato-colored skirts, who hides Oskar's grandfather Joseph Koljaiczek under her skirts to keep him from the law. They bear a daughter, Agnes, Oskar's mother.

Joseph Koljaiczek (Wranka) / Joe Colchic: Oskar's maternal grandfather, who hid from the police under Anna Bronski's four skirts; he was wanted for arson (burning down a paper plant). He fathers Agnes, Oskar's mother, the day that he meets Anna Bronski, (whether while hiding under Anna's skirts or later that night is a subject of debate), and marries her that night. He then takes on the persona of Joseph Wranka, a dead riverman, living and working for many years. Once he is found to be Joseph Koljaiczek, he attempts escape from the law again, only to drown under a raft in his flight. A family myth remains that he actually survived drowning and fled to America, where he became a millionaire lumber baron in Buffalo, N.Y. under the name Joe Colchic.

Agnes Koljaiczek (Matzerath): Oskar's mother and closest confidant. Although she marries Alfred Matzerath, a soldier she meets as a nurse, she has an ongoing affair throughout her life with Jan Bronski, her cousin. Oskar suspects that Jan, and not Alfred, is his actual father. After an incident watching an eel fisherman at the coast, she begins to eat fish obsessively and eventually dies.

Jan Bronski: Vincent Bronski's son and Oskar's mother (Agnes Matzerath)'s cousin and lifelong adulterous lover. Jan is also the man that Oskar presumes to be his biological father. Jan is a skinny, perpetually sickly man, who was turned down four times for the army. He works in the Polish post office in Danzig and is taken prisoner while unwillingly defending it against the Germans when they invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. He is later executed.

Klepp (Egon Münzer): Oskar's friend who comes to visit him in the mental institution. A jazz flautist, he played in a jazz band with Oskar and Scholle, a guitarist, at the Onion Cellar, a club in Düsseldorf after WWII.

Gottfried von Vittlar: A friend of Oskar's, who comes to visit him in the institution. He first met Oskar in his mother's apple tree while Oskar was on a walk after WWII. Vittlar is the reason Oskar is in a mental institution - Oskar asked him to turn him in as the murderer of the nurse Sister Dorothea, even though he was innocent.

Alfred Matzerath: Oskar's assumed father (Oskar presumes Jan Bronski to be his actual father), whom Agnes Koljaiczek met while working as a nurse. Alfred had been shot through the thigh in WWI. He and Agnes were later married. He is a strong and vocal supporter of Hitler throughout WWII, and is killed by Russian soldiers when they take Danzig after the war.

Albrecht Greff: The greengrocer and boy scout leader. He is obsessed with order, and knows little about the vegetables he sells. He is rumored throughout the book to be 'rather too fond' of the young boys in his troupe (which is eventually taken away from him in lieu of the emergence of the Hitler Youth Corps). Each morning in the winter, Greff goes out to the frozen sea, cuts a hole in the ice, and swims. He is preoccupied with inventing clever mechanical machines. When he is summoned to appear in court on a morals charge by the German authorities, Greff kills himself with an elaborate counterweighted machine that he invents in order to hang himself in his basement.

Lina Greff (Bartsch): Albrecht Greff's wife, a slovenly woman who rarely gets out of bed. She carries on an extended adulterous affair with Oskar, which Albrecht knows about but ignores. She provides Oskar with his first substantial sexual experiences.

Bebra: Oskar's lifelong mentor and role model; he is, like Oskar, a man who refused to grow. He first meets Bebra at the circus - Bebra is a musical clown. Later, Oskar joins up with a performing troupe Bebra has put together; they perform for soldiers on the front lines during WWII. Later, when Oskar is signed to a record and performing contract, Bebra is in charge of the company. Through Bebra, Oskar meets Roswitha Raguna, the love of his life.

Roswitha Raguna: A beautiful Italian woman who, though a bit taller than Oskar, has nevertheless chosen not to grow. She is the most celebrated somnambulist in all of Italy. When Oskar joins Bebra's performing troupe, he and Roswitha have a long love affair that lasts until she is killed by mortar fire on the front lines of France in WWII.

Herbert Truczinski: Oskar's friend who, in order to get away from almost certain death working in a bar on the Danzig waterfront (he was stabbed repeatedly by sailors), takes a job guarding a figurehead from an old sailboat named 'Niobe.' The figurehead is supposedly cursed and is responsible for Herbert's death - he takes an ax to the figurehead but kills himself in the process.

Maria Truczinski (Matzerath): Oskar's first sexual partner and the mother of the boy he considers his biological son, Kurt. Maria marries Alfred Matzerath after Agnes dies, because Alfred thinks he has gotten Maria pregnant. Oskar flees to western Germany with her after WWII.

Kurt Matzerath (Bronski): Kurt is Maria's son and the reason that she marries Alfred Matzerath, for he believes himself to be Kurt's father. Oskar, however, knows better - he is convinced he fathered Kurt with Maria in her bed after pouring fizz powder in her navel. Kurt does not like Oskar and does not understand him; he is of normal size and does not understand how to drum.

P. Korneff: A tombstone artisan in Düsseldorf with whom Oskar gets a job chiseling inscriptions. Korneff has a constant skin infection - there are boils constantly erupting on the back of his neck.

Sister Dorothea (Köngetter): The nurse living across from Oskar in the Zeidler flat. He never lays eyes on her in the light, but is infatuated with her. He hides in her closet, then has a failed sexual episode with her in the flat's darkened bathroom. Her murder is wrongly pinned on Oskar, who comes into possession of her severed ring finger.

Minor Characters

Vincent Bronski: Anna Bronski's brother, and Oskar's great-uncle. He is a widower and lives on a farm in Kashubia. After a pilgrimage to Czestochowa (a place where the virgin Mary was sighted), he becomes obsessed with coronating the Virgin Mary as the Queen of Poland. His son is Jan Bronski, Agnes Bronski's lover.

Gregor Koljaiczek: Joseph Koljaiczek's elder brother, who marries Anna Bronski after his brother drowns. He is a drunk and works in a gunpowder factory. He dies in the flu epidemic of 1917.

Hedwig (Lemke) Bronski/Ehlers: Jan Bronski's wife, a Kashubian woman described as big and 'rawboned,' with an 'inscrutable bovine gaze.' She and Jan have two children, Stephan and Marga.

Gretchen Scheffler: Agnes Matzerath's friend, who takes it upon herself to educate Oskar after it is clear that he cannot go to school. Although she believes her attempts to be futile, it is from her that Oskar learns of Rasputin and Goethe, the two great intellectual forces in his life.

Alexander Scheffler: Gretchen Scheffler's husband, a baker, who travels constantly with his wife on the Third Reich's 'Strength Through Joy' ships.

Stephan & Marga Bronski/Ehlers: The children of Jan and Hedwig Bronski. Jan is as sickly as his father. They are either Oskar's cousins or half siblings, depending on whether Oscar's father is Jan Bronski or Alfred Matzerath.

Auntie Kauer: Oskar's kindergarten teacher, who would walk her students through town by harnessing them all together.

Meyn the trumpeter: A tenant in Oskar's family's apartment building, he is a gin-drinking drunk who is capable of playing beautiful music. Oskar often accompanies him on the drum. During WWII, he gives up drinking and joins the army. After he is discharged, he starts drinking again. Meyn owns four cats - one day he gets sick of them, beats them to death and puts them in a dumpster. Laubchaud the watchmaker reports him to animal control.

Dr. Hornstetter: Oskar's doctor in the mental institution, who comes by his room almost every day, just long enough to smoke a cigarette. She insists that Oskar suffers from childhood isolation.

Old Man Heilandt: An older tenant of Oskar's apartment building. He had a shed in the courtyard behind the apartment building, where he would spend his time straightening old nails that he pulled out of crates.

Nuchi Eyke, Axel Mischke, Harry Schlager, Hänschen Kollin, and Susi Kater: The children Oskar's age that live in his apartment complex. They never accept him, but make fun of him and make him drink a soup they make out of pulverized brick, spit, urine, and live frogs.

Sigismund Markus: The Jewish toy store owner where Agnes buys Oskar his drums. Sigismund is secretly in love with Agnes; he volunteers to watch Oskar every week when Agnes has her hotel liaisons with Jan Bronski. He is killed by the Nazis when they take over Danzig, after they destroy his store.

Löbsack: The Nazi district chief of training, also a hunchback. Oskar regards him at first as the Nazi emissary of he and Bebra's kind, but then realizes he is mistaken.

Father Wiehnke: The priest at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Danzig, where Agnes Matzerath went every Saturday to confess.

Dr. Hollatz: The doctor that gained notoriety by publishing a paper studying Oskar's glass-breaking voice.

Sister Inge: Dr. Hollatz' assistant and a nurse, the only person in the office that Oskar allows to perform experiments on him.

Leo Schugger: A man whose occupation is to turn up as a mourner to funerals and offer condolences; he attended seminary school and Oskar calls his vision of the world 'radiant and perfect.'

Mother Truczinski: A woman living in Oskar's apartment building, the mother of Herbert, Maria, Guste, and Fritz Truczinski. She keeps Oskar company and offers him a place to sleep over the years after Maria and Alfred Matzerath are married.

Guste Truczinski (Köster): A quiet, unwed woman who is a waitress at a Danzig hotel. She then marries a soldier named Köster, whom she had only known for a few weeks, and moves to Düsseldorf. After the war, Maria, Oskar, and Kurt flee to the west and live with her.

Fritz Truczinski: Fritz keeps rabbits in the courtyard behind Oskar's Danzig apartment. He is in the army and is only known to Oskar through the postcards he sends home from the front lines in the west.

Laubschad the watchmaker: A man living in Oskar's apartment building who lives surrounded by clocks. He is a member of the local SPCA, and saves Meyn's cats from the garbage on the day of Herbert Truczinski's funeral.

Koybella: The janitor at the Polish Post Office in Danzig - he had one leg an inch shorter than the other, and was fabled to be able to fix toy drums. He is killed in the defense of the post office when it is attacked by the Nazis.

Victor Welhun: An extremely nearsighted man who loses his glasses at the post office battle. His job is delivering money orders. He is the only man who escapes German imprisonment and execution. Oskar refers to him only as 'Poor Victor.'

Ehlers: Hedwig Bronski's second husband, who causes Jan's former family to change their last names.

Felix & Kitty: The two acrobats in Bebra's troupe. Kitty is blonde and exotic; Felix is the tallest member of the group, measuring well over four feet.

Corporal Lankes: A tortured artist and soldier on the front line, Lankes becomes friends with Oskar, and takes a trip with him back to the Atlantic wall after the war is over. Lankes smokes incessantly, but never buys his own cigarettes, preferring to take them from whoever is near.

Ripper, Putty, Firestealer, Mister, Soup Chicken, Lionheart, Bluebeard, Totila, Teja, Belisarius, Narses, Störtebaker, Felix and Paul Rennwand: The major members of the Dusters, a group of young hoodlums that Oskar leads. They act as a guerrilla group against the government, breaking and entering. They are finally caught when they break into the church of the Sacred Heart and saw apart the statue of the Virgin Mary with the infants Jesus and John the Baptist.

Moorkähne: The leader of the other faction of Dusters, Moorkähne is shy and soft-spoken, a very good student, and has a limp because one of his legs is shorter than the other.

Lucy Rennwand: Felix and Paul Rennwand's sister, who takes the information on the Dusters to the police and is responsible for their getting caught.

Mr. Fajngold: A Polish refugee who comes to live with Oskar's family in the wake of the war. Although she had been killed, he is convinced that his wife Luba and his children Lev, Jakub, Berek, Leon, Mendel, and Sonya are there with him, and consults them on every decision. Fajngold had been the disinfector at Treblinka Concentration Camp. Finally he proposes to Maria, who declines marriage and moves west with Kurt and Oskar.

Willem Slobber: The Düsseldorf version of Leo Schugger. According to Korneff, there is a whole fleet of Leo Schuggers, living under a different name in every city.

Sister Gertrude: A nurse that Oskar takes on a date; she leaves him at a dance hall because she is embarrassed to be with him.

Professor Kuchen: The first artist Oskar poses for; he does his work, as do his students, in charcoal.

Professor Maruhn: A sculptor and friend of Kuchen's; Oskar spends a lot of time posing for him, though Maruhn is never satisfied and never finishes a sculpture of Oskar.

Ulla: Corporal Lankes' sometime fiancee, whom he beats when he cannot find artistic inspiration. Ulla spends time posing with Oskar for the young art students.

Raskolnikov: A painting student who turns out the masterpiece of Ulla and Oskar posing together. He is so nicknamed because he never stops talking of Crime and Punishment, guilt and atonement.

Zeidler: Oskar's landlord in Düsseldorf, an undertaker who Oskar nicknames 'The Hedgehog.'

Mrs. Zeidler: Zeidler's wife, who wears poorly tailored suits and is given to throwing her husband into glass-throwing rages.

Dr. Erich Werner: Sister Dorothea's admirer, whom Oskar never sees but becomes jealous of through the letters he sends to Dorothea.

Mr. Stenzel: Maria's boss and second husband, whom she marries in Düsseldorf. Oskar doesn't like him, and stays away from Maria after she marries.

Scholle: The long-sought guitarist and third man in Oskar's jazz band 'The Rhine River Three,' which plays in the Onion Cellar.

Ferdinand Schmuh: The owner of the Onion Cellar, where Oskar's jazz band plays. Schmuh spends his time in the Rhine meadows, shooting sparrows.

Dr. Dösch: A man who frequented the Onion Cellar; after Schmuh's death, he offers Oskar a contract to take his drumming act solo.

Sister Beata: A nurse and best friend of Sister Dorothea. Dr. Erich Werner was in love with Sister Dorothea, Sister Beata was in love with Dr. Werner, and Sister Dorothea was not in love at all. Nevertheless, Sister Beata became jealous of the doctor's misplaced affections. She killed Sister Dorothea - the 'real' killer in the case for which Oskar is in the mental institution.

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