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The Tin Drum | Book Summaries

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Timeline of Events

  • 1899

    Joseph hides under Anna's skirts, gets her pregnant with Agnes, and marries her.

    Book 1, Chapter 1
  • 1923

    Agnes marries Matzerath but continues an affair with Jan. She gives birth to Oskar a year later.

    Book 1, Chapter 3
  • 1927

    Oskar receives a tin drum for his third birthday. He learns that he can sing-shatter glass.

    Book 1, Chapter 5
  • 1937

    Agnes, Oskar's pregnant mother, dies in an apparent suicide from eating too much fish.

    Book 1, Chapter 13
  • 1938

    During Kristallnacht, the store where Oskar gets his drums is destroyed; the owner kills himself.

    Book 1, Chapter 16
  • 1939

    Oskar betrays Jan to the Home Guard at the Polish post office invasion.

    Book 2, Chapter 19
  • 1940

    Oskar sleeps with Maria. Matzerath does, too, and then marries her. Maria gives birth to Kurt.

    Book 2, Chapter 22
  • 1941

    Oskar has a sexual relationship with Frau Greff, and Greff kills himself.

    Book 2, Chapter 25
  • 1942

    Oskar joins a street gang—the Dusters—desecrates a church, and gets arrested.

    Book 2, Chapter 29
  • 1943

    After Matzerath dies, Oskar tosses his drum into the grave and begins to grow.

    Book 2, Chapter 32
  • 1946

    Oskar becomes a gravestone cutter and then a nude model.

    Book 3, Chapter 35
  • 1947

    Oskar tries to seduce Sister Dorothea and then becomes a jazz drummer.

    Book 3, Chapter 37
  • 1948

    Oskar finds Sister Dorothea's finger and keeps it. He confesses to her murder, which he did not commit.

    Book 3, Chapter 45
  • 1954

    Oskar turns 30 and wonders what will happen when he is released from the asylum.

    Book 3, Chapter 46

Book Summaries Chart

Book Summary
Book 1, Chapters 1–2 Oscar Matzerath, incarcerated in a mental institution, begins writing his memoir with the help of his keeper, Bruno Mü... Read More
Book 1, Chapters 3–4 Oskar continues to use his drumming to sort his memories about his grandfather and about the historical past. His frie... Read More
Book 1, Chapters 5–6 Oskar chooses to stop growing at age three and plans to injure himself in order to have a plausible rationale for his ... Read More
Book 1, Chapters 7–8 Oskar realizes that he has to learn to read, and he enlists Frau Greff, the frustrated wife of the homosexual scoutmas... Read More
Book 1, Chapters 9–10 This section begins with a joke. Oskar "singshatters" the windows in the lobby of the State Theater: his "first contac... Read More
Book 1, Chapters 11–12 The chapter opens with Oskar wishing his keeper, Bruno, had a larger peephole to observe him more directly. Oska... Read More
Book 1, Chapters 13–14 Agnes begins eating fish obsessively, so much that she throws up every time she eats it. Even then, she goes back for ... Read More
Book 1, Chapters 15–16 When Herbert can't find work, he and Oskar briefly take up lives of crime. This ends badly since they haven't the reso... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 17–18 In the present-day narrative, Oskar has received a new drum from Maria, his father's second wife and his first lover, ... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 19–20 Kobyella, Oskar, and Jan play skat as the post office is being blown to bits, pillar by pillar. Kobyella is close to d... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 21–22 Maria is Oskar's first love, Herbert's younger sister, and the one person who saves Oskar from having to live without ... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 23–24 Oskar tries to get Maria to remember the fizz powder by getting Bruno to find him some for her next visit to the asylu... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 25–26 Oskar opens the chapter by announcing the mud-logged victories of the Army Group Center. This comparison extends to th... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 27–28 Oskar in Paris, in love with Roswitha, finds that the Eiffel Tower makes him homesick. He compares standing or squatti... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 29–30 Although Oskar visits the Church of the Sacred Heart regularly, he is never able to repeat the experience that nearly ... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 31–32 This chapter begins with Oskar's description of a swimming pool, tiled in azure and surrounded by suntanned and attrac... Read More
Book 2, Chapters 33–34 In the present-day framing tale, Oskar addresses the nature of dreams, calling them "inane stories filled with ... mon... Read More
Book 3, Chapters 35–36 Book 2 closes with Oskar headed toward a new, grown-up life. As Book 3 opens, Oskar is at loose ends, searching for th... Read More
Book 3, Chapters 37–38 As the German economy changes, Oskar needs to leave his work as a stonecutter. Invited to model at the Art Academy, he... Read More
Book 3, Chapters 39–40 Not only is Oskar opening Sister Dorothea's mail, but he also keeps checking her door. One day, he finds the door is o... Read More
Book 3, Chapters 41–42 In the present-day framing story, Oskar muses that now Klepp is taking his revenge: with his weekly visits he wants to... Read More
Book 3, Chapters 43–44 Schmuh, the owner of The Onion Cellar, is not happy that his customers want Oskar's drum for catharsis, instead of oni... Read More
Book 3, Chapters 45–46 Oskar recalls how he became friends with Vittlar, the man who called to him from the tree. Switching to the present-da... Read More
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