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Chapter 13: Tapered at the Foot End Notes from The Tin Drum

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The Tin Drum Chapter 13: Tapered at the Foot End

Exactly two weeks after Easter, Agnes began to eat fish obsessively. She would start in the morning with herring, then move on to any sort of fried, boiled, preserved, or smoked fish she could find. She began to vomit at intervals throughout the day, neglecting to answer either Jan's or Alfred's questions about why she was doing so. After drinking the oil from several cans of sardines, she was taken to the hospital. There, Agnes was found to be three months pregnant. Dr. Hollatz said she had jaundice and fish poisoning, but Oskar says it was the memory of the eels in the severed horse's head, and the fear of seeing it again, that did her in. For four days she retched, then finally died. Oskar says in his mother's death she and Jan Bronski had become Romeo and Juliet; she had died for him, held their love on a pedestal, and sacrificed herself. Oskar describes his mother's funeral, who was buried not in Saspe but next to her stepfather, Gregor Koljaiczek:

"I couldn't help feeling that her head would bob up again any minute and that she would have to vomit some more, that there was something more inside her that wanted to come out: not only that fetus aged three months who like me didn't know which father he had to thank for his existence; no, I thought, it's not just he who wants to come out and, like Oskar, demand a drum, no, there's more fish, not sardines, and no flounder, no, it's a little chunk of eel, a few whitish-green threads of eel flesh, eel from the battle of Skagerrak, eel from the Naufahrwasser breakwater, Good Friday eel, eel from that horse's head, possibly eel from her father Joseph Koljaiczek who ended under the raft, a prey to the eels, eel of thine eel, for eel thou art, to eel returnest..." Chapter 13, pg. 163-164

At the funeral, Anna Koljaiczek fell on her daughter's coffin and cursed Alfred in Kashubian as a murderer. Oskar admired his mother's coffin; he laments that that all human things are not, like a coffin, tapered at the foot end to suit us perfectly. Throughout the ceremony, Oskar wanted to sit on the foot end of that coffin and drum out the ceremony - just sit there and drum until his sticks rotted away. After the ceremony, Sigismund Markus showed up at the cemetery. After an altercation, he was shown the exit by Alexander Scheffler and Meyn the Trumpeter. Oskar slipped out and went to meet Markus, and led him through the cemetery's iron gate, where they met Leo Schugger, a man who spent his time going from funeral to funeral offering condolences. Markus and Leo talked, then Markus left in a waiting taxi. After the funeral, the group retired to Vincent Bronski's farm and spent the evening playing skat. Oskar slipped under Anna's four skirts and fell asleep there, as close as he could be to his mother's beginnings.

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