schizopoiesis Die Blechtrommel 忍者ブログ
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The Tin Drum (German: Die Blechtrommel) is a 1959 novel by Günter Grass. The novel is part of Grass' Danziger Trilogie (Danzig Trilogy).
Contents



The story is about the life of Oskar Matzerath, who writes his autobiography from memory while in a sanitorium during the years 1952-1954. However, Oskar's memories begin before those of ordinary people. The story starts with his own birth, when Oskar sees the light of "two sixty-watt bulbs" in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland). Gifted with a piercing shriek that can shatter glass or be used as a weapon, Oskar declares himself to be one of those "auditory clairvoyant babies", whose "spiritual development is complete at birth and only needs to affirm itself". At age three he receives a tin drum for his birthday and decides, after observing the obtuseness and duplicity of the adult world, to will himself not to grow up. As a result, he retains the stature of a child while living through the beginning of World War II, the Holocaust, several love affairs, and the world of postwar Europe. Through all this the tin drum remains his treasured possession, and he is willing to kill to retain it.

Oskar considers himself to have two "presumptive fathers" - his mother's husband Alfred, a member of the Nazi Party, and her secret lover Jan, a Polish citizen of Danzig who is executed for defending the Polish Post Office in Danzig during the Nazi invasion of Poland. Oskar's mother having died, Alfred marries Maria, a woman who is secretly Oskar's first mistress. After marrying Alfred, Maria gives birth to Oskar's possible son, Kurt. But Oskar is disappointed to find that the baby persists in growing up, and will not join him in ceasing to grow at the age of three.

During the war, Oskar joins a troupe of performing dwarfs who entertain the German troops at the front line. But when his second love, the diminutive Roswitha, is killed by Allied troops in the invasion of Normandy, Oskar returns to his family in Danzig where he becomes the leader of a criminal youth gang. The Russian army soon captures Danzig, and Alfred is shot by invading troops after he goes into seizures while swallowing his party pin to avoid being revealed as a Nazi.

Oskar moves with his widowed stepmother and their son to Düsseldorf, where he models in the nude with Ulla and works engraving tombstones. He falls in love with the saintly Sister Dorothea, a neighbor, but fails to seduce her. Still devoted to his little tin drum, Oskar becomes a virtuoso jazz drummer and achieves fame and riches. One day while walking through a field he finds a severed finger: the ring finger of Sister Dorothea, who has been murdered. He then meets and befriends Vittlar. Oskar allows himself to be falsely convicted of the murder and is confined to an insane asylum, where he writes his memoirs.

[edit] Themes

[edit] Art versus war

World War II is compared with Oskar's art and music. The implied statement is that art has the ability to defeat war and hatred. Oskar escapes fighting through his musical talent. In chapter nine: The Rostrum, Oskar manages to disrupt the Nazi rally by playing his drums. Oskar plays a rhythm which is more complex and sensual than the march step of the rally. Despite his disruption of the activities of the Nazi party, the power of his music remains ambiguous. It seems that the music of the drum is simply disruptive, and not purely a moral force aligned against the Nazis. This is especially evident in another component of Oskar's music, his voice. As a substitution for singing, Oskar's voice is a terrible scream which exerts incredible power. Oskar's voice has the power to break glass, which he uses as the leader of a gang of criminals to rob stores by breaking their front windows. Grass's magical poetic imagery subtly aligns with political/ cultural events, and the reader realizes that Oskar is somehow an embodiment of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass which signaled the unmasked aggression of the Nazi Party. Ultimately Oskar remains a complex, magically symbolic character, embodying both the wish to dismantle the emergent Nazi party as well as the aggression of the party itself. Grass beautifully elucidates the paradox and schizophrenia of post war German consciousness.

[edit] Horrors of the Nazi regime

The Tin Drum covers the period from the 1920s through the 1950s and ranges from Danzig to Cologne, Paris and Normandy. Grass describes the actions of the Nazi regime from Kristallnacht to the execution of the survivors of the Polish Post Office.
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