Oskar is the nine-year-old protagonist of the novel: he’s extremely precocious and incredibly imaginative, but he has a lot of fears, worries, anxieties, and guilt. As he walks around New York, Oskar carries a tambourine… (read full character analysis)
Thomas Schell, Sr. is Oskar’s grandfather, who also is one of the narrators of the novel: several of the chapters present a series of letters that Grandpa has written to his son but never sent… (read full character analysis)
Grandma raised Dad as a single mother, since Grandpa left her before Dad was born. Grandma has a special bond and very loving relationship with Oskar. She is always available on the walkie-talkie whenever… (read full character analysis)
Thomas Schell, Jr., Oskar’s father, never appears in the novel, since it takes place after he died, but he provides its emotional center, and his death precipitates the novel’s main storylines. Dad didn’t work in… (read full character analysis)
Mr. A. Black’s first name is never given, even though he’s the Black that Oskar becomes the closest with on his quest. Mr. Black lives a few floors above Oskar, and even though he hasn’t… (read full character analysis)
Abby Black lives in Brooklyn, in the narrowest townhouse in the city. Abby is one of the first Blacks that Oskar visits, but, as it turns out, she holds the key to the mystery of… (read full character analysis)
William Black, Abby’s husband, is the “Black” of the envelope that the key was inside; or, to be more precise, William’s father was the “Black” of the envelope, because the key opens his father’s safety… (read full character analysis)
Ruth lives on top of the Empire State Building: she’s a tour guide for the observation deck, but she never leaves, preferring instead to sleep in the storage room. Mr. Black is smitten with Ruth… (read full character analysis)
Jimmy Snyder is the annoying boy in Oskar’s class who teases him. Jimmy plays Hamlet in their class play, and he makes fun of Grandma, who he says laughs at the wrong parts. Oskar… (read full character analysis)
Dr. Fein is Oskar’s therapist. Dr. Fein tries to play some mind games with Oskar to draw forth his subconscious, but Oskar in turn tries to out-clever Dr. Fein, which creates a sort of spy-versus-spy… (read full character analysis)
Ron is Mom’s boyfriend, whom she met in a grief support therapy group. Oskar initially dislikes the idea of Mom being with Ron, since it seems like she’s not grieving properly after Dad’s death. However… (read full character analysis)
Georgia lives on Staten Island, which means that Oskar has to face his fear of boats and take the ferry to her house. Georgia’s whole house is devoted to her husband, even though he’s still… (read full character analysis)
Simon Goldberg was the Jewish friend of Anna and Grandma’s father. During World War II, their father hid Simon Goldberg in the family’s shed-turned-library in an effort to protect his friend from the Nazis. Goldberg… (read full character analysis)
Anna was Grandma’s sister and Grandpa’s first love. Anna died in the Dresden firebombing, along with her and Grandpa’s unborn son. Grandpa is still in love with Anna, even though he marries Grandma: when Grandma poses nude for him, his sculpture still turns out looking like Anna.
Stan the doorman functions primarily in the story to deliver Oskar letters periodically. But Stan, like Oskar’s Mom, silently watches and knows a lot more about Oskar’s life than he lets on, and he cares deeply about Oskar’s well-being.
A Black who lives in Coney Island. He gets Oskar to go on the Cyclone roller coaster with him.
A Black who lives in Queens. He is apparently ill and hooked up to medical devices, and so can't come down to see Oskar.
A Black who is the 467th richest person in the world. Oskar is surprised when she seems to know that he lives on the upper west side.