An alternate version of the United States in the 1960s
Narrator and Point of View
The novel centers around a few focal characters: Childan, an American who owns an antiques store; Tagomi, a Japanese trade representative; Frank Frink, an out-of-work factory worker who establishes a jewelry business; Baynes, a spy; and Juliana, an American and judo instructor living in the Rocky Mountain States. The story is told in the third-person.
Tone and Mood
The novel makes extensive use of short, chopping sentences that sometimes leave off "a" or "the." The mood of the novel is reflective and foreboding.
Protagonist and Antagonist
There are a number of protagonists (including Frank Frink, Juliana Frink, Tagomi, Childan, and Baynes), as well as a number of antagonists (Joe Cinnadella, Bruno Kreuz com Meere, and Dr. Goebbels) .
The central conflict in the book is between the two world powers, German and Japan, which are vying for supremacy. However, this great conflict only forms the backdrop of the struggles that the characters in the book face. Frank is attempting to launch his jewelry business; Childan tries to run a successful antiques business and also gain self-respect; Tagomi tries to connect with a mysterious man who might be a spy; Juliana tries to figure out what Joe Cinnadella is trying to do; and Baynes is trying to deliver a very important message to Tedeki, a retired Japanese general.
Each of the storylines comes to its own climax in the final chapters of the book, and each character resolves the dilemmas that have plagued him or her throughout the book. Robert Childan confronts Paul Kasouras about his suggestion that Childan mass-produce Edfrank Jewelry, and asserts himself by asking the Paul apologize for implying that American-produced goods are junk; Childan has finally demanded respect rather than weakly submitting to the Japanese and hating them for it. Baynes is able to deliver his message to the general, and Tagomi triumphs over the horror of evil by confronting the German police with an antique pistol. Juliana realizes that Joe Cinnadella is actually a German operative sent to assassinate Abendsen, and meets Abendsen herself, discovering the secret of his novel.
Before Baynes' arrival, Tagomi receives a coded telegram that refers to a popular song: "Skim milk masquerades as cream" (pg. 21). Tagomi rightly interprets this as a sign that Baynes will not be what he seems. This foreshadows the eventual revelation that Baynes is actually the spy Rudolf Wergener.
When Tagomi is meditating on the piece of Edfrank Jewelry, he makes a reference to 1 Corinthians 13:11: "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways."
See Imagery Section of this ClassicNote.
The greatest paradox in the book is about the nature of reality. How can we ever tell what is real? The evidence that we use to determine the authenticity of things (for example, a certificate that "proves" a Zippo lighter was really in FDR's pocket when he was assassinated) might in themselves be fake.
Bruno Kreuz vom Meere and Hugo Reiss are both Nazis, but whereas Reiss is wiling to bend the rules a bit (as evidenced by his reading of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy), vom Meere takes an extremely hard line. Though the two are similar, they are distinct in numerous ways.
Metonymy and Synecdoche
When Childan realizes that the item Mr. Tagomi ordered has not arrived yet, he panics. "Robert Childan's aspirations and fears and torments rose up and exposed themselves, swamped him, stopping his tongue" (pg. 4).
Childan's fears do things that only people can do - exposing themselves, stopping his tongue - which makes this sentence an example of personification.
The Man in the High Castle Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Man in the High Castle is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.