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Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb 
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Post Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass

Book one; Chapter three
Moth and Light Bulb



Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
Several events occur in this chapter which will play a large part of chapters to come. The importance of the tin drum is introduced heavily. Oskar relates the story of his birth through his drum, if you listen very carefully, you may be able to hear his drumming from his cell in the institution. The grocery store is introduced in this chapter, and a hint of Oskar's trial and conviction is also touched upon. And of course, we meet Oskar's mother Agnes, and her two lovers.

Oskar is able to tell in detail the event of his birth, and says:

“I may as well come right out with it: I was one of the clairaudient infants whose mental development is completed at birth and after that merely needs a certain amount of filing in”, (pg 47).

What is interesting in this chapter concerning writing style is how Grass switches perspectives of the narrator. Within one sentence, Oskar will switch from referring to himself by name, as if he is a character, to continuing recounting his experiences by referring to himself in the first person. This can be seen here:

“I can only go by my Eastern European standards and praise that medium-sized powdery- brown moth of the hour of my birth; that moth was Oskar’s master”, (pg 48).

This switching of narrator perspectives ties in nicely to the first chapter and the question of whether Oskar is indeed writing an autobiography, or is he writing a novel in which Oskar is a character. There is a feel to this chapter that there may be two narrators.

“The moth was Oskar’s master”.
This is a very intriguing sentence. Oskar describes the moth as drumming, the moth is asking the light bulb questions. Oskar is promised a tin drum upon his third birthday, and this excites him. The power of the tin drum, and the act of drumming itself becomes very important to Oskar by the close of this chapter.



Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:29 am
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
OK - I had a thought on my way into work this morning. Could it be that Oskar is a dwarf, and his way of coping is to say that he stopped growing at the age of three?


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Thu Sep 02, 2010 9:01 am
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
sillyme wrote:
OK - I had a thought on my way into work this morning. Could it be that Oskar is a dwarf, and his way of coping is to say that he stopped growing at the age of three?


This is very logical, his body never grows, his mind doesn't either. He tells us he is born with a mature adult mind, and wills his body to stop growing. This is pretty incredible. He is very conceited, so I can see how a reader would come to the conclusion that he is just an angry, insane dwarf and that he is somehow creating this incredible, fantastic story to come to terms with a physical defect.

There is a magical quality about Oskar, and there may be two ways to view him, in a logical manner or a magical manner. Oskar is the unreliable narrator, and we are reading about his life and the events that happen around him through his eyes, and his memories, and probably oftentimes, his lies. But are they lies? Do we dare believe in the magic he presents us with?



Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:50 am
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
I'm trying really hard with this, but I just can't find Oskar to be sympathetic. I'm in Book Three now. We'll see how it goes.



Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:02 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
lindad_amato wrote:
I'm trying really hard with this, but I just can't find Oskar to be sympathetic. I'm in Book Three now. We'll see how it goes.


Wow, you are really far into this book.

Have you enjoyed the reading overall?

You say you find Oskar unsympathetic, how does that lack of compassion for Oskar affect you as you progress through the book?

The lack of sympathy for Oskar is a keen observation. The last thing Oskar wants you to feel is sympathy for him, he is too conceited to desire this feeling in his readers. The events that occur during the time period presented are horrific. Is it at all possible that the character of one, Oskar, represents a larger population, the population of Germany during this time for instance? A lack of sympathy for Oskar would then overflow into a lack of sympathy for the entire nation of Germany. Do you think this is a message that Grass is trying to relate through the character of Oskar? In other words, do you think the world viewed all Germans as unsympathetic and unfeeling to the events happening around them?

Grass published his autobiography a few years ago. It was highly criticized and controversial.

The German edition of this memoir by Nobel Prize–winning novelist Grass caused a stir with its revelations about the author's youthful service in the Waffen SS combat unit during the last months of WWII. According to his deliberately disjointed, impressionistic account of the war, Grass never fired a shot and spent his time fleeing both the Russians and German military police hunting for deserters, but he dutifully shoulders a joint responsibility for Nazi war crimes and a guilt and shame that gnaw, gnaw, ceaselessly.

http://www.amazon.com/Peeling-Onion-Gun ... 0151014779

The admissions that Grass makes in his own autobiography so many years after the publication of “The Tin Drum” must have been difficult for him. I cannot help but think that his involvement in the SS somehow colored and influenced his deep feelings that are seen in the novel, “The Tin Drum”.



Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:17 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
I think Oskar's conceitedness is mostly a defense mechanism for him. He is small, he is odd, and he is not always treated very well, so he copes with this by viewing everyone's inability to understand and accept him as a lack of sophistication on their part. I think the story he tells about choosing not to grow any more is fabrication also meant to preserve his self esteem.

What is curious to me is his ability to break glass with his voice at a distance and with precision. I suspect that he is not really doing that, but is actually doing something much more believable and less fantastic. I think we may find out later just exactly what he is doing to the glass, or maybe he is just inventing this part of the story to impress his readers.



Mon Sep 06, 2010 5:36 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
From the "for what it is worth" department, Germany was disgraced during the inter-war period. The allies chopped up Germany's empire and left it "smaller" but with a knowledge of its "full-grown" self. If Grass is using Oskar as a metaphor for Germany after WWI then, small stature, the ability to do small damage (break glass at a distance) concert, and arrogance kind of fit. Of course I am clutching at straws here, I am not at all sure that is what Glass intends; looking forward to finding out.


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Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:15 am
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
Hello and welcome to the discussion InviQtus. Yes, that glass shattering voice is something else. He only utilizes this weapon when his drum is threatened, Oskar does not want it taken away. This ties in very nicely with Gary’s thoughts.

GaryG48 wrote:
From the "for what it is worth" department, Germany was disgraced during the inter-war period. The allies chopped up Germany's empire and left it "smaller" but with a knowledge of its "full-grown" self.


Can I work in your "for what it is worth" department? I think this is really spot on. Oskar has the fully developed mind of an adult, in a child's body. Oskar may feel afraid that he will deminish even further if his drum is taken away. I have to say, however, that he does keep his voice in check, he only uses it when someone tries to take his drum away. Oskar does not use it for any other advantage, which shows a maturity. This maturity may reinforce Oskar's statement that he was born with an adult mind. There is nothing child like about Oskar.

What I am really grappling with is the tense switching. It does feel as though there are two narrators. It becomes more and more pronounced as the book moves forward and it has a creepy feel. SeeSpot mentioned she felt a darkness to this book, I can certainly feel this as well with the tense switching.



Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:26 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
There are so many contradictions in this book; it seems to be highlighted immediately in Chapter 3 by the authors statement that he's said enough about his grandfather immediately before going on about his grandfather. Then midway through the second paragraph, he lists every possible (are some even impossible?) outcome for the fate of the ship that starred in the escape of Koljaiczek from his pursuers. Thus, the narrator absolves himself of any responsibility to THE TRUTH.

I think that the question of whether this story is a novel or an autobiography is a moot point. It seems to me that the theme that Grass is "drumming up" in chapter three, is that for all stories, the truth is only true as far as the experience of the person's point of view who is remembering it (Ask Einstein: Isn't everything relative?)

By allowing for the exploration of all possible truths (through meditation, as with the drum?), the narrator is showing us that he is either completely nuts, or actually a brave seeker of truth.



Thu Sep 23, 2010 9:59 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
Hello IGotThis2 and welcome to the discussion.

IGotThis2 wrote:
I think that the question of whether this story is a novel or an autobiography is a moot point.


I don't know if it is a moot point. As the novel progresses I have found that the narrator, I, the man in the instituion is writing an autobiography. However, Oskar comes across as a character somewhat detached from the narrator who oftentimes uses the first person of I. In this sense, there is both a novel and an autobiography included in this story, Oskar then becomes a character. Not many writers include a detailed description of the moment of their birth within their autobiographies, and yet, the novel states that this is indeed an autobiography.


IGotThis2 wrote:
Then midway through the second paragraph, he lists every possible (are some even impossible?) outcome for the fate of the ship that starred in the escape of Koljaiczek from his pursuers. Thus, the narrator absolves himself of any responsibility to THE TRUTH.


This is terrific, and very thought provoking. "The narrator absolves himself of any reponsibility to the truth". I think you are correct, the reader is warned quickly that the events described may be fantasy. But I do see some kernals of truth, even inside some of these fantastic tales. The kernals of truth are in the emotions of the narrator and Oskar. The man in the institution is bitter and resentful, Oskar is coming across as more innocent.



Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:04 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
I think you are right about the different voices that the narrator uses to distance himself from his current situation. It's a kind of freedom for him to be able to use his drum to travel on an astral plane throughout what he sees as his own and his ancestral history to explore the full range of possibilities, and, I believe, to allow himself to believe all of them for a brief moment.

BTW, I snipped your Faulkner quote and made it my FB status for the day... Love it!



Fri Sep 24, 2010 12:21 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 3, Moth and Light Bulb
I've finished the book and think that possibly Grass was using Oskar to show the conflicted feelings that many Germans might have felt, or that Grass felt. He must have struggled with his military service for years before making it public. Grass has said that the Germans were "stupid" about seeing what was really going on within the Reich and what was happening to their national morality. Perhaps he means for Oskar conceitedness to represent the State or Nationalism. However, I think he would have made a better argument if Oskar was a more sympathetic character.



Fri Sep 24, 2010 6:52 pm
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