Study Guide

The Tin Drum Chapter 45

By Günter Grass

Chapter 45

The Last Tram or Adoration of a Canning Jar

  • Oskar turns to confront the person who's seen him pocket the severed finger. It's a young man named Gottfried who's sitting in the crook of a nearby apple tree.
  • Based on the guy's posture and menacing tone, Oskar accuses him of being Satan. It's honestly not even clear if this dude is just a figment of Oskar's imagination.
  • We eventually find out that this person in the tree is none other than Vittlar, his frequent visitor at the asylum.
  • Vittlar knows who Oskar is, since he's become a celebrity by now.
  • Oskar and Vittlar agree that it would be fun to hang out for a while. All talk of the severed finger in Oskar's pocket is pretty much forgotten.
  • One day, Oskar invites Vittlar to come over to his apartment. By this time, Oskar's also rented out Sister Dorothea's old room with his extra money.
  • When Vittlar gets there, he finds that Oskar has taken the severed finger and is keeping it preserved in a jar. Oskar also claims that he sometimes prays to the finger.
  • Oskar hears that Sister Dorothea has been murdered, and he becomes convinced that the severed finger belongs to her.
  • One night, Oskar and Vittlar decide to borrow a tram car and go cruising around in it. As they travel, they get flagged down by a couple of men looking for a ride.
  • Between these two men is a third man, nearly blind, who's being held prisoner by the others.
  • Oskar asks what this person has done wrong. The men answer that they're ex-German soldiers and that the man in their custody escaped from the Polish Post Office in Danzig when it was attacked back in 1939.
  • Oskar recognizes the man from the Post Office and pleads with the Germans not to kill him, since the war is long over.
  • The men refuse and say that debts need to be paid. They walk away with the poor man, but Oskar and Vittlar follow close behind.
  • Just when the men are about to kill the old Post Office worker, Oskar starts drumming, and magically seems to summon an entire squadron of Polish soldiers on horses.
  • These soldiers ride over the countryside and snatch up the Post Office worker along with his two assailants.
  • The three of them disappear into the night, and we're all left wondering: what was that all about?
  • Magical Realism, we guess.
  • When that ordeal's over, Vittlar compliments Oskar's talent. Vittlar's really desperate to do something important with his life, something that'll get him into the papers.
  • This gives Oskar an idea. He tells Vittlar to go to the police and to tell them that Oskar Matzerath is responsible for the murder of Sister Dorothea.
  • Vittlar refuses, but Oskar guarantees him that this is what he wants. He's fed up with his life, and wants to go somewhere to rest, be it prison or an asylum.
  • Vittlar runs off toward the police station. After a quick nap in the field, Oskar gets up and decides to go on the run because it'll make Vittlar's story more believable.