Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 21

By Günter Grass

Chapter 21

Maria

  • Oskar decides that his tin drum is the last remaining witness to his terrible betrayal of his uncle/father Jan. He hammers away as hard as he can, and before long, the drum's destroyed.
  • But when it comes to getting new drums, Oskar father Alfred just doesn't get the message. He buys Oskar all kinds of new things for Christmas except a drum.
  • According to Oskar, the only thing that saved him was the arrival of a new person into his life: Maria Truczinski, the youngest sister of Oskar's dead friend Herbert.
  • Alfred's been having a tough time running the grocery store, so he hires Maria to help out.
  • It's clear from the start that Oskar is a big admirer of Maria. Not only does she restore the family shop's reputation, but she realizes very quickly that Oskar likes to always have a fresh tin drum.
  • Wait. Can this Maria be the same Maria who's has been visiting Oskar in the mental institution and bringing him fresh new drums? Very astute, Shmoopers.
  • Oskar continues with a long description of Maria's beauty.
  • Even though Maria clearly wins back the shop's customers, she remains respectful toward Oskar's father Alfred.
  • Oskar knows we're probably wondering why he's going to such lengths to describe Maria. And so he answers: Maria Truczinski was Oskar Matzerath's first love.
  • Oskar realizes his love for Maria when he suddenly becomes aware of how gentle and passionate his drumming gets when he thinks about her.
  • Maria still thinks of Oskar as a three-year-old kid, even though she and Oskar are both in their late teens. She undresses and dresses Oskar, washes his privates for him, and puts him to bed. For some reason, she never seems to notice that Oskar's whole body blushes when she does these things.
  • One day, Maria decides to take Oskar to the beach with her. She buys bathing suits for both of them and off they go.
  • On their way to the beach, they pass the Saspe cemetery, and Oskar's overcome with guilt after being reminded of his Uncle Jan.
  • When they get to the beach, Maria takes Oskar into the changing rooms with her and gets undressed in front of him. Oskar (who's seventeen, remember) stares in awe at her pubic hair, which both attracts and scares him.
  • Once he feels himself beginning to get an erection, Oskar jumps up and runs at Maria, burying his face in her bare groin and crying. He doesn't know what to do with himself. Maria, for her part, just laughs and pushes him away.
  • The chapter ends with Maria teasing Oskar about running into her groin, saying that he heads straight for it even though he doesn't know what to do with it.