Literature Study GuidesThe Tin DrumBook 3 Chapters 41 42 Summary

The Tin Drum | Study Guide

Günther Grass

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The Tin Drum | Book 3, Chapters 41–42 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 41: On the Coco Rug

In the present-day framing story, Oskar muses that now Klepp is taking his revenge: with his weekly visits he wants to spoil Oskar's time in bed at the mental institution, much as Oskar spoiled Klepp's by invigorating him through his drumming.

Returning to the past, Oskar recounts how Zeidler, the landlord, installs a new coco rug (made from coconut fibers) in the hallway of the house where Oskar is living. Oskar helps him install it, and takes the extra piece of coco rug with him. When he has to get up in the night to go to the bathroom, Oskar wraps the coco rug around his waist instead of getting dressed and goes into the hallway to walk down to the bathroom. He opens the bathroom door and realizes there is someone inside. It is Sister Dorothea, who feels the rug in front of her and asks who he is. Oskar, taking advantage of the situation, tells her he is Satan, and starts to rub the rug over her to arouse her. She becomes faint, and for a while it seems she will accept his attentions. But Oskar finds he is impotent, and Sister Dorothea becomes more awake and asks who he really is. He identifies himself as her neighbor and admits that he is in love with her. She pushes him out of the way, goes into her room, packs, and leaves for good. Oskar lies on the hallway rug, sobbing. Zeidler and his wife come out into the hall to see what the noise is all about, and Klepp—who has found a guitarist, Scholle, and has him in tow—puts Oskar to bed. They later go out and play jazz together; Oskar names them The Rhine River Three.

Chapter 42: The Onion Cellar

Oskar's band plays at a club called The Onion Cellar, where—as a form of therapy—people slice onions to make themselves cry, and then admit to all of the troubles in their lives. The bar owner's wife gets into the act and admits all sorts of awful things about her husband. Things get chaotic until Oskar takes over with his drumming. Oskar does not tell stories; he drums the world of toddlers: carefree, impudent, not toilet trained. The guests respond to the drum's magic and begin to live out innocent and infantile moments. All leave the club relieved of their painful memories by Oskar's brilliant evocation of childhood.

Although the musicians are not allowed to partake of the onion "cure'" while they are in the club, Oskar doesn't need onions in order to cry. His drumming can evoke his tears, guilt, and sadness.

Analysis

Oskar's attempted seduction of Sister Dorothea is one of the most humorous scenes in the novel. His failure to perform is a comeuppance and keeps the mood of the scene light; she is in no danger from her neighbor-turned-Satan.

The band Oskar forms with Klepp gives him a sense of accomplishment and a way to express his emotions. The scene in which he saves the day at The Onion Cellar is a culmination of the novel's exploration of apathy—the German citizens' apathy during the war and in these early years of post-war Germany. The bar's customers have no access to their feelings and no habits that could bring the sort of retrospection transformed by tears. Instead they must resort to an absurd sort of group therapy. In Chapter 42, Oskar gets the opportunity to redeem his own apathetic role in Germany's past by being able to give the customers genuine help. He has become fully human.

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