Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 20

By Günter Grass

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Chapter 20

He Lies in Saspe

  • At this point, Oskar stops his story and says he's lied a little bit to us. He didn't just scream like a three-year-old.
  • He actually pointed at his uncle/father Jan and made it seem as if the evil man had forced him to come to the Post Office.
  • The last thing Oskar remembers about Jan is watching him get lined up with all the other Post Office employees against a brick wall.
  • Is it just us, or is this the worst thing ever? Oskar's proving to be something of a monster.
  • Days later, Jan's wife Hedwig receives a message from the government saying that Jan Bronski has been charged, convicted, and executed for "irregular military activity."
  • The note doesn't give any indication of where Jan's body is or whether he's been buried. Along with this note, Hedwig learns that all of her family's property has been seized, and that she has to leave her home immediately.
  • The only reason Oskar ever finds out where Jan is buried is because Crazy Leo stops him while walking one day and hands him an empty bullet casing.
  • Without saying a word, Leo is able to convey to Oskar that the bullet casing came from Saspe, and that it's the remains of one of the German firing squad bullets that killed Jan and his coworkers.
  • Oskar wishes he could write a letter saying that he was the one who led Jan back to the Post Office that night. Too late for regrets.
  • After the incident at the Post Office, Oskar actually spends a while in the hospital. During this time, he's pampered by his family and relatives, which only makes him feel worse about getting Jan killed.
  • Oskar goes on to tell us that it took the Germans hardly any time at all to crush the Polish army. By the time Oskar got out of the hospital, Germany had already conquered Poland.
  • It was only after he'd been out of the hospital for a few weeks that Oskar met Crazy Leo on the street. At this point, Oskar retells the story of how Leo showed him the truth about what happened to Jan after being captured at the Post Office.
  • Oskar knows what he needs to do with this information. He visits his grandmother Anna Bronski. But instead of hiding under her skirts like he usually likes to do, he hands her the last skat card Jan ever held, along with the empty bullet casing from Saspe.
  • As Grandma Bronski stares at these two objects, Oskar whispers into her ear, "He lies in Saspe." He hopes that telling his grandmother this will give her some sense of closure about what happened to her nephew Jan.

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