Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 28

By Günter Grass

Chapter 28

The Imitation of Christ

  • After Oskar parts ways with Bebra, heartbroken again, he has to return home because he has nowhere else to go.
  • Everyone's shocked to see him. Alfred and Maria filed a missing person's report on him years earlier, and they never expected to see him again.
  • Once the news of his return gets around, a government agency tries to step in to put Oskar in an institution, saying that Oskar's different from normal people and that he should no longer be in Alfred's custody.
  • (What would actually happen is that Oskar would be euthanized by the Nazis, who felt that to maintain racial purity, "defectives" had to be eliminated.)
  • But Alfred still feels a fatherly responsibility toward Oskar, probably because he still feels bad about leaving the basement door open when Oskar was younger.
  • Kurt's third birthday arrives, and Oskar wants to use the opportunity to give Kurt a drum so the boy will follow in his footsteps.
  • Oskar goes off on a rant about how he wished things could have gone between him and Kurt. He imagines himself turning the pages of his family photo album, with Kurt eagerly asking him to explain each picture.
  • But unfortunately, Kurt is a total hell-raiser. Being three, he's also just as big and strong as Oskar, which means Oskar can't physically force the child to do anything. Karma.
  • Kurt constantly attacks and bullies Oskar, which only makes Oskar feel more ridiculous and helpless.
  • Maria gets word from the front that another one of her brothers (this one's named Fritz) has been killed in the war. After his death, Maria becomes religious and starts taking Oskar with her to the same Catholic church Oskar's mother used to take him to.
  • When they're in the church one day, Oskar decides to revisit the statue of the baby Jesus that so rudely refused to show him a miracle and drum for him when he was younger.
  • But Oskar's undaunted. All these years later, he marches right back up to the statue when no one is looking and places his drum back in the baby's lap and the drumsticks back in Jesus's hands. Oskar can't help but think of how much the statue of Jesus reminds him of himself.
  • And this time… Jesus actually comes to life and starts playing the drum. But make sure to remember that Oskar is telling this story from inside a mental institution. And there's the magical realism thing…
  • Oskar walks closer and closer to the baby Jesus as the boy starts drumming. Eventually, he gets fed up with the miracle and demands his drum back from Jesus.
  • Oskar turns to leave, but Jesus calls him back with the question, "Dost thou love me?" Oskar says no, but Jesus keeps asking.
  • Finally, Oskar turns around, and Jesus tells him that he (Oskar) is the rock upon whom Jesus will build his new church. The original "rock" of the church was Peter, the first pope, so Oskar's apparent hallucination is putting him in some pretty impressive company.
  • After this, Oskar makes one last threat to the statue, then rushes back to Maria and leads her out of the church.