Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 4

By Günter Grass

Chapter 4

The Photo Album

  • Oskar stops relying on his drum to tell his story and pulls out a photo album. His photo album guides him through the past, and his drumming helps to fill in the gaps.
  • Looking over the photos, Oskar notices that a few are of him and his friend Klepp (one of his visitors from the last chapter). He remembers getting these taken while hanging out with Klepp. He goes on to talk about how he and Klepp used to love going to the movies together. Oskar wanted to take a trip somewhere at the time, but didn't have enough money, so he relied on movies as his vacations.
  • It turns out that Oskar and Klepp had a routine of going to the movies, then going to the passport office to get their passport photos taken.
  • But Oskar finds he's talking about these snapshots of him and Klepp too much. Because all he wants to establish is that these photos are nothing compared to the grand, dignified portrait photo of his grandfather Koljaiczek. He goes on to describe this photo in detail.
  • Oskar concludes by describing a photo of his father Alfred and his Uncle Jan standing behind his mother, who's sitting in a chair.
  • Oskar uses this photo as a way of jumping into a discussion about the love triangle that existed between these three. He turns to another photo of the three of them together playing a three-person card game called skat.
  • And just so you know, Oskar is aware of how symbolic it is for his mother, father, and uncle to play a card game that requires three players: no more and no less.
  • Next, Oskar turns to a picture of himself when he is eight months old. He's naked and lying on some sort of polar bear rug, which he finds weird and tasteless. He says it's a totally normal photo, except it's missing something: the tin drum that he was promised at birth.
  • But photos like this one, says Oskar, are only the lead-up to the most important one, which is the photo of him on his third birthday.
  • In this photo, he's holding his prized tin drum against his stomach. Only in this photo does Oskar seem to look confident and ready to meet the world.
  • Oskar says he liked the way he looked in this photo so much that he decided to never grow any older after that. All he wanted to be was a three-year-old with a drum.
  • But poor Oskar: growing up is a part of life that you can't avoid.
  • Or can you…?