Literature Study GuidesThe Tin DrumBook 2 Chapters 25 26 Summary

The Tin Drum | Study Guide

Günther Grass

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The Tin Drum | Book 2, Chapters 25–26 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25: Seventy-Five Kilos

Oskar opens the chapter by announcing the mud-logged victories of the Army Group Center. This comparison extends to the "equally muddy terrain" of Frau Greff's bed, a roll in the hay as a frolic in the mud. It is mid-October of 1941, and German tanks and trucks are bogging down as Hitler attempts to attack Moscow. In musical terms, which more or less elevate the discussion, Oskar claims a sexual prowess of depth and range found only in Germany's principal centers of classical music: grand opera and symphony.

Oskar visits Frau Greff, who is usually bedridden, and she invites him to get into bed with her where it is warm, and she then allows him do whatever he wishes. Oskar has sex with her every time he gets into her bed. Greff, the grocer, begins to smell what Oskar is up to, so he provides a washcloth and a bowl of water by the bedside table so Oskar can clean himself up before visiting his workshop. Greff himself is sliding into despair, since his favorite scout has been killed on the front. He has built a drum machine. Oskar believes he inspired the machine, but it turns out it was for Greff's own "finale." The next time Oskar visits Frau Greff, Greff has hanged himself, wearing his scout uniform. When the body is lifted, the drum machine is set in motion. Oskar discovers a torn-up court summons on the floor that has been stamped by the vice squad. He turns Greff's death into a "well-rounded composition for percussion," using his drum to turn Greff's anguish into art.

Chapter 26: Bebra's Theater at the Front

The chapter begins with Oskar's coldly selfish version of his concerns with battle sites and the widespread death and destruction of the war. He considers reports of the disasters of war to be geography lessons and declares less worry about the city of Stalingrad, site of a major battle between Germany and the Soviet Union, in 1943 than his concern over Maria's "slight" flu.

Oskar runs off to perform with Bebra, the little clown, and his partner, Signora Roswitha Raguna. Roswitha attempts to seduce Oskar into joining their theater troupe. Bebra invites Oskar to join them in Paris, where they will entertain the German Army of Occupation. Bebra is a Captain in the Propaganda Corps.

Oskar takes his leave of Mother Truczinski and Matzareth and steals out of the building at night, reminiscing as he goes about the tenants who were all part of his youth, thinking about his mother and about the Jesus statue in the Church of the Sacred Heart. The troupe's performance for the occupying army is a great success, and afterward Oskar and Roswitha make love all night, exchanging fear and courage in a "bodily embrace which matched his own proportions" until an air raid ends their activities, leaving Oskar uncertain whether his lover was a young girl or a very old woman.

Analysis

Oskar is changing, even if readers don't like what he is becoming. He is showing the beginning of self-love here, which at 17 is developmentally on cue.

Matters of life and death continue. It is clear from the objects left by Greff that his suicide was about the vice squad summons (recalling Markus's suicide and the terrible threat against those whose lives are marked by difference), the death of a scout he loved, and Greff's loss of his position as a Boy Scout leader; the photos left behind recall the Photo Album chapter. Moreover, Greff's consideration in providing for Oscar's comforts as Oskar leaves Lina Greff's bed is evidence that Lina's adultery was not implicated in the suicide.

The drum machine represents the moment when pain, in this case, suicide, becomes art. The commotion it raises echoes the commotion of the originally peaceful and healthy Greff's life after he is harassed for his homosexuality and punished by the death of the beautiful scout. Oskar recognizes the commotion of the machine in relation to his drumming: both are cries of anguish or tantrums over a world not operating in his favor.

Oskar leaves parts of his past behind when he goes off with Bebra and Roswitha. Bebra has seemingly compromised himself by accepting a commission in the Propaganda Corps, the very group that spreads the message of German superiority and purity. It would seem Bebra tests his own wit and nerve against survival. He is safe and in grave danger all at once. Oskar has no scruples about performing for the Nazis. Just as he learned geography from the location of major battle sites, he gets to see new places firsthand by joining his friends in their travels. His education, thus far, has focused on matters of love and lust, rather than moral issues.

Roswitha's seduction of Oskar, similarly, is not a matter of moral choice. She and Bebra would seem to practice "free love," and she enthusiastically encourages a liaison with Oskar. Finally, Oskar is able to practice his skills as an inventive lover, and in the end, he discovers, in their exchanges of fear and courage, a mutuality with Roswitha that he has not experienced in his past sexual adventures.

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