Study Guide

Jan Bronski in The Tin Drum

By Günter Grass

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Jan Bronski

Jan is a bit of a sad sack who's only happy when he's with his cousin Agnes. He's turned down by the army because of his poor health, and gets a job at the Polish Post Office. This position eventually turns out to be his undoing, since he gets shot by a firing squad while defending it during the German invasion of Danzig.

Jan will do just about anything for Agnes, though. Unlike Alfred, he's a romantic. He sells most of his prized stamp collection to buy things for her. He's totally infatuated and devastated when she decides to marry Alfred. But he continues to hang around, and conducts an obvious and passionate affair with Agnes right under Alfred's nose (and Oskar's, too). As Oskar notes at one point, Jan's

submissive at work, ambitious in love, imprudent and obsessed by beauty in equal measure. (10.31)

Jan's also Oskar's possible father, and throughout the book, Oskar seems to express a preference for Jan over Alfred. Jan spends a fair amount of time with Oskar and seems to care about him.

During the German assault on the Post Office, Jan cowers in the corner, giving a

sheepish look […] [like] that of a sulky and embarrassed schoolboy admitting he hadn't done his homework. (18.37)

Jan even sticks his legs out of a window hoping that someone will wound him in the lower leg and free him from having to fight anymore. After the Polish forces surrender, he and the remaining workers are led out and shot. Oskar feels complicit in his death, since to save himself, he points out Jan to the German soldiers.

Jan Bronski in The Tin Drum Study Group

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