Study Guide

The Tin Drum Oskar

By Günter Grass

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Our diminutive antihero is at the center of the story, and what might Oskar symbolize? Let's see—he's cold, unfeeling, destructive, controlling, immoral, and grandiose. Hmmm. Even though he's demented and deluded, he feels superior. He's a liar. He lives through two horrific wars but doesn't seem to be affected by them. He betrays people close to him. We think that Grass created him as an extreme example of the self-absorbed German society that allowed horror to happen around them and just went along with it.

The New York Times reviewer we mention in our Tough-O-Meter wrote: "If Oskar is a symbolic figure, a German Everyman, then Günter Grass is disillusioned to the point of despair."

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