Study Guide

Bebra in The Tin Drum

By Günter Grass

Bebra

Bebra's a little person working as a musical performer in a travelling circus. Oskar meets him when his parents take him to see the circus. He's Oskar's mentor and role model. From his first meeting with Bebra, Oskar's mesmerized by Bebra's confidence and his ability to command the audience's attention. Bebra has a courtly, grandiose style about him and claims to be a "direct descendant of Prince Eugen" (9.26). He's in the habit of handing out wisdom to Oskar, and makes a huge impression on him with his statement that:

"We have to perform and direct the action, otherwise our kind will be manipulated by those who do. And they'll happily pull a fast one on us." (9.24)

Another performer, Roswitha, is Bebra's paramour, but despite his respect for Bebra, Oskar begins a romantic relationship with Roswitha.

Bebra's basically a high-class circus clown, and he eventually makes it all the way to the position of Captain in the German army as a propagandist and entertainer for the troops. After the war, he goes on to become a wealthy music promoter and sends Oskar on his world tour. When Bebra dies, Oskar takes it hard. He cancels two music tours and loses a ton of money. Oskar feels that Bebra is the first and only person to ever see him (Oskar) for the genius and the villain that he is.

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