Study Guide

The Tin Drum Mortality

By Günter Grass

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At the end of The Tin Drum, Oskar reflects on the Black Cook, a witchlike creature from German folklore, and talks about her as a sort of Grim Reaper. He claims that she (Death) was present at his mother's funeral, and was flying all over Europe during the rise of Nazism and World War II. He retraces for the reader all the deaths he has described in the novel. Oskar admits that he sometimes had trouble recognizing Death for what she was, but ends his story by saying that Death is always behind us and in front of us. He knows he'll have to plan the rest of his life under the gaze of the Black Cook. WWII saw unimaginable death and destruction, and Oskar was witness to this. No wonder he feels that the Black Cook has been everywhere.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why does Oskar end the book with a long speech about mortality? What prompts this?
  2. In a book that's set during WWII, why does Oskar only give passing reference to the Holocaust?
  3. Why does Oskar choose to use the Black Cook—a figure from children's nursery rhymes—to symbolize death?
  4. Has Oskar become accustomed to death because he's lost almost all his closest family?

Chew on This

Oskar's rant about The Black Cook and death is his way of saying that life will always be filled with terror because death follows us everywhere.

In The Tin Drum, death is something that gives meaning to the time we've been given, and in that sense, it's a precious thing.

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