Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum

Posted: November 30th, 2013





Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum

Artists often have creative ideas in their mind, and they choose different means to express this. Authors are fortunate since they can adopt other characters who fulfill the creative abilities of these authors in their work. Some writers want to talk about serious issues in the past and at the same time put in a sense of humor. They want to show the surrounding effects of the time, and demonstrate real human elements. For even during periods of war, people have always found moments when they laughed and released their tension. The “Tin Drum” by Gunter Grass focuses on the life of Oskar. The story tells of Oskar’s life, his family, interests, lovers, and country. Grass has managed to incorporate humor in his work despite the seriousness of the some of the themes. He has given Oskar various characteristics and has used him as an unreliable character. The author has not escaped the element of the supernatural, which has worked well to justify and understand the main character, and at the same time add in some humor.

Oskar is the main character in the book, whose life is intertwined in drama and a series of uncertainty even before his birth. His grandparents meet in the most unlikely manner, and they end up getting married. His mother is flirtatious, and obviously beautiful, judging from the number of people interested in her. One would expect Oskar’s mother to be serious and committed to her marriage, judging from the time setting of the book, but this is not the case. She ends up cheating on her husband, and because of this, Oskar is not sure who his real father is, and he ends up recognizing two men as his father. Oskar decides and declares that he does not want to be a grown up, when he is three years old. This means that he has a short stature for most of his life, despite his increasing number of years. The cycle of uncertainty continues, as Oskar ends up sleeping with his father’s second wife. She gives birth to a child, and she is not certain concerning the child’s father. From the beginning to the end of the book, Oskar’s life seemed to be full of drama and unfortunate events, which sometimes appear humorous.

The author has incorporated in humor in his work. This is clear from the time Oskar’s grandmother decides to hide her future husband under her skirts and the two of them end up getting married. At the age of three, Oskar decides that he does not want to be an adult, for he does not want to engage himself in politics or continue with the family tradition of being a grocer. He holds on to a tin drum, which his mother gave him on his third birthday, and he is willing to defend it with his life. Kurt, who is Oskar’s possible child with Maria, does not want to follow Oskar’s example of remaining a child forever, and playing the drum, something that Oskar dislikes. Although Jan is sickly and he knows he has limited chances of joining the army, he enlists for the army, and he is turned down four times. The author equips Oskar with humorous gifts, as Oskar can scream loud enough to shatter glass. These events add humor to the story, and they distract the reader from the seriousness of the issues addressed in the book.

The author deals with several serious issues such as death and the circumstances surrounding war. Jan, who is Oskar’s possible father, dies while defending the post office, and so does Agnes, who is Oskar’s mother. Alfred also dies for his support of the Nazis. Other deaths in the book include Bebra, who had been Oskar’s mentor for some time, and Dorothea and Roswitha, who had been Oskar’s love interests. Although most of the story describes Oskar’s life, it mentions the Second World War, and the Nazi regime. Most of the people who had been close to Oskar end up dead, showing the effects that the war had on people. It did not spare anyone, irrespective of the person’s support for the government and the Nazi regime.

The story highlights the struggles that people had to go through, and this is mainly seen through Oskar’s life. At one time, he had joined a gang and they had robbed government offices and churches. At another time, he had to work as a model at an art academy. He also worked writing inscriptions at a tombstone. The struggles and challenges that Oskar has been through, coupled with all the people he has lost eventually take a toll on him. He decides to take the blame of Dorothea’s murder, something that he did not do, and he ends up in a mental institution. This shows how the war damaged people psychologically. Most people lost loved ones in the war, and some ended up having no family members, friends, or neighbors left.

The story mentions and explores several sexual themes and moral concerns. There are several instances of infidelity between married couples as wives choose to have adulterous relationships. This is seen in the case of Agnes and Lina. Agnes cheats on her husband Alfred, with her first cousin Jan. Lina, who is Albrecht’s wife, gives Oskar his first sexual encounter, and continues to have an affair with him. Although the men seem to be aware of the adulterous relationships, they do nothing about it. Oskar has an affair with Maria, his father’s second wife. The story mentions possible homosexuality in the case of Albrecht, who seem to be more interested in the boy scouts than he is with his wife. He ends up killing himself, rather than facing the law on moral grounds.

The author has managed to talk about serious issues in the book, while at the same time recognizing the importance of humor in life. He has talked about some taboo topics, such as adultery initiated by the wives, and homosexuality. In addition, he has highlighted the struggles that people faced during the war. He has used the element of supernatural, in the sense of Oskar deciding to remain a child forever, to bring out several themes in the story. The addition of humor in the story is important, as it helps release some of the tension created when reading about the serious themes.


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