Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 17

By Günter Grass

Chapter 17

Scrap Metal

  • We're into the beginning of Book Two now and back in Oskar's room in the asylum.
  • Oskar tells us that someone named Maria has stopped by to give him a new tin drum. When Maria leaves, she takes Oskar's old, battered drum with her.
  • Oskar makes her keep all of his old drums in case a museum might want them someday.
  • Oskar also says that he's kept all of his old drums ever since the night Sigismund Markus died because he realized there might not be an endless supply of tin drums.
  • Now Oskar returns to the part of his story where he left off…
  • After he gets the tin drum from Sigismund Markus's shop, Oskar knows that he'll have a tough time finding his next one. So he treats his last drum carefully.
  • It's no use, though. Oskar tries drumming on other objects, like a can. But nothing other than a genuine tin drum will do. And soon enough, he's battered his way through his last remaining drum.
  • He has to find someone who knows how to fix the surface of his tin drum.
  • Oskar wanders out of his house and steps onto a tram. Mind you, he's well into his teens at this point. But it's hard not to think of him as a helpless three-year-old wandering the streets.
  • You know, we worry.
  • Eventually, Oskar ends up at the home of his uncle (and possibly father) Jan Bronski. He tells us that Jan's relationship with his other "presumptive" father Alfred has cooled since his mother's death.
  • But this isn't the result of Agnes's death so much as the increasing tensions between Germans and Poles. Alfred's become a full-blown leader of his neighborhood Nazi group, while Jan works at the Polish Post Office.
  • Oskar doesn't seem to care much about any of that. He just wants someone to fix his drum. When Jan answers the door, he realizes pretty quickly what Oskar wants. The only one he knows who can fix Oskar's drum is a janitor down at the Polish Post Office named Kobyella.
  • But Jan's avoided going to work because he knows the German army is going to attack the Polish Post Office at any moment.
  • Oskar won't drop the issue, and he eventually persuades Jan to take him there.
  • On their way back to the Polish Post Office, Oskar and Jan have to pass through a German barricade. The Germans let them through because they think Oskar and Jan live in the neighborhood.
  • When they see them turning into the Post Office, they yell for Jan and Oskar to stop. But it's too late. They've already gotten inside.
  • Jan receives a cold greeting from his colleagues. They think of him as a deserter, someone who didn't want to stand and fight with them. But now that he's back, they wonder if the Germans have sent him in as a spy.
  • Oskar looks around and sees no sign of the janitor who's supposed to fix his drum. He's disappointed, even though there are much bigger things about to go down.
  • It's late by this point, so Oskar decides to crawl into one of the mail baskets and fall asleep…