Literature Study GuidesThe Tin DrumBook 3 Chapters 43 44 Summary

The Tin Drum | Study Guide

Günther Grass

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The Tin Drum | Book 3, Chapters 43–44 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 43: On the Atlantic Wall or Bunkers Can't Cast Off Concrete

Schmuh, the owner of The Onion Cellar, is not happy that his customers want Oskar's drum for catharsis, instead of onions. He fires the band, but the move isn't popular with his customers, and the band is rehired. Oskar plays regularly at the bar and gets paid double for it.

He, Klepp, and Scholle go with Schmuh and his wife on an expedition to watch Schmuh shoot sparrows. After Schmuh shoots his 13th bird, Oskar—who sees this as a bad sign—refuses to get in the car to drive home. The car falls into a construction site's gravel pit, and Schmuh dies. Later Klepp explains the cause of the accident: as they drove past the gravel pit, hundreds of sparrows rose, cast a shadow on the car, banged the windshield, and "by sheer sparrow power" caused the wreck.

Oskar decides that he needs to leave town and travel. Lankes, the painter, is the only person available to go with him. They go to France to see the bunker Oskar visited with Bebra's troupe, and Oskar drums his memories of being at this place with Bebra's troupe. They go down to the beach to eat their lunch, and in a strange repetition of their earlier visit to the bunker, a group of nuns walks by.

Lankes offers one, the novice nun Agneta, a tour of the bunker. When they come back out, Lankes looks satisfied, and Oskar realizes that he has had sex with the nun. The nun, however, seems disoriented and wanders into the surf. Oskar worries about her safety, but Lankes sees nothing wrong with what he has just done. He decides that he should do a painting of nuns on the beach.

On their return to Germany Lankes paints a series of paintings featuring nuns and has great success selling them. Oskar, however, needs money and digs out the card of a concert promoter, Dr. Dösch. He decides the time has come to "transmute ... [his] experience ... into the pure, ringing gold of the postwar period."

Chapter 44: The Ring Finger

Oskar and Klepp begin to disagree on what kind of music they should play, and Oskar decides to branch out on his own. He contacts Dr. Dösch about signing a contract for making records and going on tour. Dr. Dösch leads Oskar to his office, where it turns out that Bebra, his old mentor, is the agent behind the contract. Oskar talks with him about what has happened since they last saw each other. Bebra seems to know what Oskar has done and recites a list of all the people Oskar has murdered: Roswitha, his mother, Jan Bronski, Matzerath. Oskar admits his guilt and begs mercy from Bebra. Bebra hands him a contract to sign: he is to perform drum solos just as he did in Schmuh's Onion Cellar. Oskar goes on tour and makes a lot of money. For elderly people he plays songs such as "Baby's First Teeth" and "You'll Wet the Bed." For coal miners he drums up a song that makes the audience howl loudly and shatter glass. He calls this his rediscovery of his "glass-slaying voice." A cult is building around him, "attributing healing powers" to him and his drum.

When Bebra, who is extremely old, dies while Oskar is on tour, Oskar quits for a while to grieve his old friend's death. Oskar lives alone at Zeidler's apartment, renting two rooms, his own and the one that had been Dorothea's. He also rents a dog named Lux to accompany him on his wanderings around the city. He offers Maria freedom from her oppressive marriage when he gives her money to purchase her own delicatessen.

While Oskar is on a walk with Lux, the dog finds a woman's severed finger in a wheat field; the finger has a ring on it. Oskar decides to keep it, wrapping it up in a handkerchief. Suddenly he hears his name being called. A man named Vittlar is sitting in an apple tree and has called to him.

Analysis

Lankes the artist is also a cruel bully, a misogynist who beats his lover, and a rapist. He paints only to earn money and finds inspiration in the nun he has abused; he can transform horror into art. On one hand he is the embodiment of the artist who lacks a soul and sells out for money. On the other, he is a stand-in for the author, who is turning the evils of the 20th century into a profound novel.

Both Chapter 43 and Chapter 44 show that Oskar, who tries so hard at various points in his life to isolate himself from his past, cannot escape it. The bunker in Normandy is again a scene of horror. Bebra is still a father figure and mentor who provides Oskar with an outlet for his talent.

Oskar has been growing emotionally and learning to help others; now, with the discovery of the severed finger, he is about to finally try to atone for his past.

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