Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 16

By Günter Grass

Chapter 16

Faith Hope Love

  • This whole chapter has a really weird structure to it. Basically, Oskar starts with the line, "Once upon a time there was a musician named Meyn, and he played the trumpet too beautifully for words" (16.1). Then he goes on to repeat this phrase with a little change now and then, giving the whole chapter a sort of hypnotic feel.
  • Oskar recounts the story of how one of his neighbors, a trumpet player named Meyn, was deeply affected by Herbert Truczinski's death.
  • At the funeral, Oskar can tell right away that something's wrong with Meyn. Another person named Crazy Leo shows up at the funeral.
  • Crazy Leo is someone whom everyone in Danzig seems to know, since he has a magical way of show up at every funeral in the city.
  • Oskar tells the story of how Meyn the musician went home after Herbert's funeral, then basically snapped and murdered his four cats. He tries to dispose of the bodies secretly. But it turns out that the cats aren't completely dead when he stuffs them into a garbage can.
  • One of Meyn's neighbors comes out and discovers the carnage. He reports Meyn to the animal protection agency, and Meyn loses his rank in the Nazi SS.
  • After that Meyn becomes totally sober and never touches another drop of alcohol.
  • Irony alert: killing the cats is decreed to be conduct unbecoming a Nazi.
  • Senseless violence alert: keep reading.
  • Later this same day, Oskar's father shuts down their family store, takes Oskar by the hand, and brings him into the city because he's received news about "something going on."
  • When they get into the city, they see a synagogue burning to the ground.
  • All around them, people are breaking into stores and looting. The whole world's gone to hell. But Oskar notices that the rioters are only breaking into certain shops and not others.
  • It's somewhere around this point that we're supposed to figure out that Oskar is witnessing Kristallnacht—which translates as "The Night of Broken Glass."
  • This event took place between November 9th and 10th, 1938. It was basically a moment in which the Nazi government of Germany told its town officials to go out and destroy Jewish homes and property.
  • Just a prelude of the horrors to come.
  • When he realizes what's happening, Oskar breaks away from his father and runs to the toy store of Sigismund Markus.
  • When he gets there, he finds the shop destroyed and soldiers defecating on the toys.
  • Mr. Markus has committed suicide inside his office.
  • But Oskar's true reason for running to the shop wasn't to help Markus—just in case you had that crazy idea. It's to find out if he can grab a few tin drums before the stock is completely destroyed.
  • As this chapter winds to a close, Oskar can't help but compare the German people's belief in Hitler to a little kid's belief in Santa Claus.
  • For Oskar, they're both myths that get a bunch of people killed for no reason. But his tone when he says this is still cold and almost emotionless.