Study Guide

The Tin Drum Allusions

By Günter Grass

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Helpful Hint: The 2009 translation by Breon Mitchell has a very handy glossary in the back explaining a lot of the historical and cultural references in the novel. It's a huge help. We'll explain some of the more frequently referenced stuff.

Literary and Philosophical References

  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (7.32) Rock star German poet, scientist, statesman, novelist, playwright—you name it—of the 18th and 19th century. Oskar learns to read from a book by Goethe. Not your typical childhood reading material.
  • Walter Flex (7.13) German author of a famous novel about WWI

Historical References

  • Defense of the Polish Post Office (chapters 18-20) The attack on the Post Office by the Germans was considered the first war crime of WWII. The defenders are heroes in Poland.
  • Kristallnacht (16.18) November 1938 The beginning of the end for Jews in Germany.
  • Rasputin (7.32) Crazy Russian mystic, personal advisor to Tsarina Alexandra of the Romanov family.
  • German Invasion of Poland (18.3) 1939, started WWII, as the European allies declared war on Germany immediately after the invasion.
  • History of the City of Danzig (19.1-19.7)
  • D-Day Invasions (27.203) USA! USA!
  • Prince Eugen (9.26) Celeb military guy who fought for the Hapsburg Empire in the 1700s. Bebra claims to be his direct descendant.

Pop Culture References

  • Jimmy the Tiger, In the Mood, Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop (popular jazz songs of the 1930s and 40s) (9.16)
  • The Black Cook: in German folklore, an evil figure, like a witch.

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