Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Tin Drum in The Tin Drum

Probably the most obviously symbolic single thing in The Tin Drum is Oskar's drum itself--it just has no reason to exist except as a metaphor, since nobody actually walks around beating on a tin drum day in and day out.  It is not obvious, though (at least to me), what it actually represents, so I'll take a stab at interpreting it.  Oskar uses the drum to bring up memories by evoking the sounds of what happened, so it possibly represents a connection to the past.  However, the drum is also used, for example at the rally, to influence people and make them "march in step"--which, if I'm not just over-thinking this, is definitely in keeping with the events of the novel, id est the Third Reich.  I don't really see a strong connection between these two: the drum as a metaphor for memory is more explicitly stated in the novel, but I don't see how it ties in with the historical elements of the book; meanwhile, I see complicity as a strong theme of the novel, but I find it hard to find a workable correlation between the two.  Any ideas?

1 comment:

Miranda Martinez said...

I agree with you Ian. I can definitely see Oskar's drum as a metaphor for the past. In a way, he uses his drum to express his anxiety that surrounds his life. Just as many people use art to express their feelings of the present or past, Oskar uses his drum to beat out the memories of his own misfortunate life.

As for the historical connection of Oskar's drum, I too was wondering this as well. It seems to me that Oskar is portraying the drummer boys during the war. Typically drummer boys were seen as insignificant, but were actually extremely important during war (usually as messengers). That much is pretty obvious, but perhaps Grass wants us to make the connection between what we perceive as innocent and what is not. Typically drummer boys are thought of as innocent children with no exposure to the harshness of reality until they enter whatever war they're fighting in. By all means correct me if I'm wrong, but maybe Oskar's tin drum aims to change what we see as innocence, by allowing us to see his inner thoughts and see that he is, in fact, involved in many forms of complicity (as you mentioned).