The collection tells the story of a merchant family from a small Galician town which resembles the writer's home town, Drohobycz, in many respects. The story abounds in mythical elements, introduced by means of the visionary and dreamlike literary depiction (e.g. frequently occurring motif of labyrinths), characteristic of the writer. It is thus mythologized reality, processed by the imagination, artistically distorted and enriched by all possible references and allusions to other literary works, to great myths, to other, more exotic domains of reality.
One of the most significant characters in the work is the Father, who is not only the head of the family, a merchant running a textile shop in the marketplace, but also a mad experimenter endowed with superhuman abilities, a demiurge living between life and death, between the world of the real and the imaginary. Despite the literary fascination with the character of the Father displayed by Schulz, it is Józef whom he renders the work's protagonist and narrator. In the character of this young boy, eagerly discovering the world that surrounds him, many of Schulz's own traits are clearly visible.
Another is Adela, the servant girl. She is a dominant woman and object of desire. She controls and threatens the Father, on one occasion freeing all of the birds he has collected in the attic, driving them away with her broom.