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Chapter 24: How Oskar Took His Helplessness to Mrs. Greff Notes from The Tin Drum

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The Tin Drum Chapter 24: How Oskar Took His Helplessness to Mrs. Greff

Oskar says that he never liked Greff the greengrocer; Greff never liked him either. Greff was a vegetarian and would talk about vegetables of idealized perfection. Oskar thought it was nonsense; in his rural family they were practical about potatoes and such. Greff was a generally overdone person, and above all, Oskar hated that Greff could not give up the boy scout troupe that had been taken away from him when the boys were placed into the Hitler Youth Corps. The boys would come by often to see Greff and they would sing the songs they had used to sing. The meetings were tolerated because both Greff and several boys had become higher-ups in the Hitler Youth or the Nazi Party.

Greff loved two things most of all: nature and young boys. As an aside, he loved cleanliness and orderliness; his wife Lina Greff, was a slovenly woman who was perpetually greasy. For Greff, a love of nature meant asceticism. Twice a week in the winter he would ride his bicycle to the frozen ocean before dawn and spend forty-five minutes digging a hole in the ice. He would lift the disk of ice out of the sheet and undress completely, then jump in and bathe for two or three minutes. On Sundays he would bathe in the company of several young boys, who would play and rub each other, then Greff, with snow.

Greff's store opened with money from Lina's father, and could easily have made lots of money, had Greff not been cited by the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Yet Greff did not mean to cheat anyone. He was given to coming up with elaborate mechanical contraptions, and he had invented a set of chimes that went off whenever someone weighed something - a move that the government bureau did not like.

As Maria became more obviously pregnant, Oskar's hatred for her mounted. He was angry that the child's name would be Matzerath and not Bronski. That being so, Oskar resolved to attempt abortion. When Maria was five months pregnant, he pushed her off a ladder; she turned an ankle but the baby was fine. Three weeks before her due date, Oskar tried again. He sat in the living room, drumming softly, as Maria napped on the couch. Suddenly he couldn't take it; he had to do away with her bulging belly. He picked up a pair of scissors and prepared to deflate her belly. Maria caught Oskar's hand just in time. Oskar was taken to stay upstairs with Mother Truczinski.

According to Oskar's calculations, Oskar's son Kurt was born two weeks early. He resolved to give the boy a drum when he turned three, just as Agnes had done for him. When Kurt was baptized, Anna and Victor were invited as Oskar thought proper because Hedwig and her new Husband, Ehlers, who replaced Jan Bronski, had stopped by and gotten themselves invited. At the Protestant church, Oskar refused to enter. After the ceremony, while the rest of the guests ate, Oskar slipped away and went to see Kurt in his cradle. He could think of nothing to say to the infant short of promising him a drum at three. Back in the dining room, chocolate pudding with vanilla sauce was served. The sauce made Oskar feel helpless; he could not get away from it or its representation. He slid off his chair, crawled to Lina Greff, and breathed in her moldering scent. Oskar vomited at her feet, and resolved from then on to take his helplessness to Lina Greff.

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