Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 1

By Günter Grass

Chapter 1

The Wide Skirt

  • Meet Oskar Matzerath, a smart-sounding blue-eyed guy who's living inside an insane asylum. We don't know why he's in there; but we do know that he plans on telling us his life story.
  • Oskar has a "keeper" named Bruno who has a great talent for tying knots. Bruno admires his own knots so much that he sinks them in plaster and hardens them into statues when he's finished tying.
  • Oskar has visitors from time to time, but he doesn't seem all that happy about it. He doesn't really seem to like anyone.
  • One day, Oskar asks his keeper Bruno for a big stack of paper so he (Oskar) can write his life story.
  • His story starts long before he was even born. He wants to talk about his grandmother, Anna Koljaiczek, and about how she used to sit in her backyard wearing four layered skirts and roasting potatoes in a small pit fire.
  • Does that sound too old-timey and wholesome to you? Just wait.
  • While she's roasting her potatoes, Anna Bronski sees two tall and skinny people chasing after a short and stout one.
  • The short and stout one (no, he's not a teapot) reaches her first, and seems desperate. It looks like the other two chasing him are cops. Anna raises her skirts and beckons him to hide under them.
  • The two cops show up moments later and question Anna about whether she's seen a man running past. She says nope, and the men eventually move on.
  • While they poke around her potato fire, Anna keeps sighing and whispering the names of saints out loud. We're not sure why at this moment, but we'll find out soon enough.
  • When the cops finally move on, the fugitive crawls out from beneath Anna's skirts. He has to button up his pants once he's out. But wait. Does that mean he just… No way.