I have just started reading The Tin Drum by Günter Grass and am wondering why he keeps repeating certain words and phrases over and over, for example: raft to raft; beneath the raft, under the...

I have just started reading The Tin Drum by Günter Grass and am wondering why he keeps repeating certain words and phrases over and over, for example: raft to raft; beneath the raft, under the raft, searching the rafts, on the rafts etc. What is he trying to convey by this style of writing?

Asked on by uskl914

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is a very good question!

Günter Grass's novel The Tin Drum uses various unusual stylistic devices to convey to the reader a sense of the protagonist and narrator, Oskar Matzerath, a man growing up in Nazi Germany. The narrator, precociously mature at the age of three, decides to stop growing and remains physically a toddler out of disgust at the adult world even as he mentally matures.

Oskar has supernatural abilities. He is capable of screaming so loudly that he can shatter objects. He also was given a tin drum, purchased from a Jewish-owned music store (shortly thereafter destroyed by the Nazis), which he keeps with him all the time and constantly plays.

The character of Oskar displays many of the obsessive and repetitive habits that we would now describe as symptoms of autism, from his constant drumming to his screaming tantrums. The repetitive language in the book evokes this sense of repetitive behaviors and sounds. 

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I don't think this stems from Grass himself or his family having this mental issue as individuals, but is more of a political statement. Grass served in the Hitler Youth as a teenager and actually was taken to visit the Dachau concentration camp when he became a prisoner of war. That means that he grew up surrounded by a society which had gone insane, and observing people under extreme mental stress. I think the point here may be that children brought up in a society like Hitler's Germany are warped and harmed by that upbringing.

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uskl914 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Thank you so much for this insight.

In chapter two Grass repeats 'Heil dir im Siegerkranz' 4 times  as interjectons.

I could not understand its connection to the story.

Now if I think about autism  I can grasp and accepte these oddities

in the text! I never would have seen the realtionship autism - repetitive behavoir. Was there any history in Grass's  family of mental issues?

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