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The nine-year-old protagonist and central narrator, Oskar is a troubled adolescent coping with the tragic death of his father, Thomas Schell Jr. His imaginative outlook is balanced by the excessive grief that consumes him. He suffers from many neuroses and phobias, and bruises himself when depressed. Though somewhat obsessed with death and pain, Oskar inspires many people whom he meets during his journey, and eventually learns to deal with his grief.
Oskar is extremely clever, as he embarks on a mission to discover what the mysterious key belonging to his father fits. He in innovative in his search, he has an inventive mind, befriends strangers in need, and holds to his mission.