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A Mythic Journey

A Mythic Journey: Gunter Grass's Tin Drum

Edward Diller
Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    A Mythic Journey
    Book Description:

    AlthoughThe Tin Drumhas often been called one of the great novels of the 20th century, most critics have been baffled in attempting to draw its apparent chaos into a single literary framework. Here is the full-length study to penetrate the brilliance of Gunter Grass's style and uncover the novel's mythopoetic core. InA Mythic Journey: Gunter Grass's Tin Drum, author Edward Diller convincingly demonstrates the still valid relationship between modern and classical literary criticism. By readingThe Tin Drumas both modern myth and historical epic, he provides a profound and sensitive interpretation of one of the masterpieces of 20th century literature.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6276-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ONE The Mythology of The Tin Drum
    (pp. 1-7)

    The hero of the classical epic is distinguished at birth by the gods, educated in trial and ritual, and eventually singled out for a special mission of sacred importance. With time he travels over vast stretches of land or water and into the distant reaches of the cosmos, to Olympus or Hades, heaven or hell. After having passed through number of trials and adventures in which he has proven his superiority over common men and uncommon monsters, he completes his special mission or quest (knowingly or unknowingly), gains stature as a result, and perhaps loses favor with the gods. (His...

  5. TWO The Masquerade of the Great Earth Mother
    (pp. 8-36)

    In spite of its apparent diversity disconnectedness, and shifting focus,The Tin Drumis guided in its conception by a single, encompassing unity It reflects in its totality what Ernst Cassirer calls “The unity of a specific structural form of the spirit”¹ that with fluid dispatch combines the objective world and individual fantasy in one mythic narrative. But the myth does not tell only of heroic exploits, history, culture, or religion: it offers a composite of these and additional elements in one universe of its own making. And it is this point that our real investigation begins, on the day...

  6. THREE Mythic Birth & Supernatural Aids
    (pp. 37-46)

    The story of Oskar Matzerath begins where it ends, in an asylum, a place of “inviolable refuge for persons fleeing from the pursuit avenging tyrants, gods, spirits” or, in the case of Oskar Matzerath, from the punishment of the courts and temporarily from the Cook. Tricked by a glossy black hound of Hecate and now haunted by the Terrible Mother herself, Oskar sits on his white, altarlike whose high bars offer him further protection from the external world and the black goddess. In addition, just as in classical times when all holy shrines were regarded as asylums and therefore guarded...

  7. FOUR The Education & Early Adventures of the Hero
    (pp. 47-66)

    By way of introduction to Oskar’s public school education, the reader is first exposed to a short satyr play of political satire in which Polish and German kindergarten children beat each other. main drama, however, takes place during Oskar’s first and only in public school, for it is here that he really demonstrates his skills and courage as a hero in combat against a monster of another world. Whereas in the kindergarten he had been harnessed and controlled with only minor flare-ups, Oskar’s experience in grade school with a battle and a victory that does justice to the most glorious...

  8. FIVE From Timeless Time to the Age of Iron
    (pp. 67-83)

    Mythopoets tend to look back with longing upon some golden age which, formerly beyond time and in harmony with the gods, has since become fragmented, profane, and historical.Illo tempore,in thatUrzeit,all events were still essentially sacred experiences reflecting in human action the light of a divine will.¹ Both Hesiod and Ovid have elaborated on the four ages of man, but they are not alone insofar as every mythology dealing with the origins of man presupposes a degeneration of harmony and happiness with the historical evolution of man. Initially, in the Golden Age, all life on earth enjoyed...

  9. SIX Imitations of Oskar, Christ, & Satan
    (pp. 84-101)

    Pagan mythology clearly dominates the world ofThe Tin Drum,but it is the challenge of Christianity that eventually drives Oskar to a point of frantic rebellion. Slowly, surely, and sometimes incongruously, Grass weaves into the fabric of his pagan story a Christian theme that begins with the mechanical Catholicism of Oskar’s mother and ends with Oskar’s deification of Dorothea and the adoration of her ring finger as a holy relique. But conflict becomes inevitable once a heathen mythological hero like Oskar has been born into a modern Christian world. The roots of Oskar’s experiences and Weltanschauung are planted deeply...

  10. SEVEN Unrest & Resignation in the West
    (pp. 102-112)

    Although Oskar resigns himself to the demands of “normal life” in West Germany and seriously believes for the while that the specters of his past have been buried along with his tin drum in the East, the figures with whom he interacts in the West still function as mythic gods or earth spirits wearing human masks. Even within the ranks of his own decimated family, the mythological directions have not been lost, for now Kurt, Oskar’s alleged son, also manifests great hidden energy and a special destiny as a hero of industry.

    The first chapter of Book 3 is titled...

  11. EIGHT The Descent to Trophonios
    (pp. 113-127)

    On several occasions Oskar has made a dramatic and concerted effort to join the world of adults, as we have seen. He attempted to abandon his childlike stature: he gave up the supernatural aids of his youth–the drum and his glass-shattering voice, and finally he even asked Maria to marry him so that he might become a husband, father, citizen, and therefore an integrated member of human society. But in each case the fates contravened. His decision to grow turned him into a hunchback, his rejected drum was forced back upon him, and his effort for acceptance in the...

  12. NINE Travel, Triumph, & Despair
    (pp. 128-147)

    Just as the treasure of the conquered dragon or sorcerer is acquired by the appointed hero, Oskar assumes the unfulfilled mission of Ferdinand Schmuh, the false priest of the Onion Cellar. Schmuh’s obvious limitations are exposed by his inability to lead his followers to any significant depth in the mysteries of Trophonios without losing them to the chaos that resides just below the formal surface of ritual. When Schmuh impulsively transgresses the set limitations of ritual practice and inadvertently releases some of the genuine undercurrents of man’s own deep mystery, it is Oskar who must descend like Orpheus to the...

  13. TEN A Streetcar Ride to Folly & Misfortune
    (pp. 148-161)

    All the while that Oskar is in the field drumming out his story and receiving the gift of the ringed finger from his rented dog, he is being carefully observed by a man lying in the crook of an apple tree, a reptilian-looking gentleman by the name of Gottfried von Vittlar, who says of himself, “I am the last of our line.” Vittlar suggests that Oskar might be inclined to take him for a snake and this tree for the apple tree of Eden, but Oskar passes the whole idea off, perhaps a bit too quickly, as “allegorical rubbish,” for...

  14. ELEVEN Epilegomena to a Drumming Dwarf
    (pp. 162-172)

    Having now completed a study of mythic allusions, images, archetypal events, and the epic structure ofThe Tin Drum,one may justifiably protest that the larger questions about Oskar’s status as a god or hierophant, his glass-shattering voice, his size, or even the tin drum as a central symbol of the novel have not been answered. Definite answers—even at this point—and ipso facto conclusions that attempt to roll the endless strings of Oskar’s adventures into wieldy packages of explanation would certainly run the risk of distortion by oversimplification; and yet, having come this far, one feels compelled to...

  15. Genealogy
    (pp. 173-174)
  16. Chronology
    (pp. 175-178)
  17. German-English Concordance
    (pp. 179-180)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 181-196)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-209)
  20. Index
    (pp. 210-216)