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Chapter 26: Bebra's Theater at the Front Notes from The Tin Drum

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The Tin Drum Chapter 26: Bebra's Theater at the Front

Greff's elaborate structure caused Oskar to look upon suicide as a noble form of death. During the time after Greff's death, Oskar was given a geography lesson by the advancing armies over the radio. But Oskar grew tired of home. He chanced upon Master Bebra and Roswitha Raguna on the way back from Gretchen Scheffler's, where he had read up on the ancient general Narses, a midget like Oskar who had conquered countries. Bebra and Roswitha convinced Oskar to go abroad with them to Paris and the west. Bebra had become an officer in the Propaganda Company of the Army; his job consisted of entertaining the troops. Driving in the car, Roswitha caressed Oskar; she told him that she had never forgotten him and still had the glass he had sung an inscription in for her. In the park, Oskar thought over the offer for the sake of form, then accepted.

He took leave of Maria, Alfred, and Kurt; Maria was responsive to his caresses for the first time in years, and Alfred stood dumbfounded in the kitchen as Oskar handed him something for the first time ever. He ate with Mother Truczinski, then slipped out that night and to the attic. He took out a new drum he had hidden, and debated whether or not to bring his Rasputin-Goethe medley. He ended up taking both the authors with him. He says:

"Oskar carried on negotiations with his two gods Dionysus and Apollo. ...If Apollo strove for harmony and Dionysus for drunkenness and chaos, Oskar was a little demigod whose business it was to harmonize chaos and intoxicate reason. In addition to his mortality, he had one advantage over all the full divinities whose characters and careers had been established in the remote past: Oskar could read what he pleased, whereas the gods censored themselves." Chapter 26, pg. 323

Oskar left his apartment building grudgingly, and was almost made late at the train station when he paused too long at the church of the Sacred Heart. At the station, Oskar was introduced to Bebra's other troupe members, Felix & Kitty. Roswitha and Kitty sewed a field-gray uniform for Oskar, cutting it to his size. Felix had forged papers for Oskar; he became Roswitha's brother to the authorities. During an air raid in Berlin, the commanding officer had Bebra put on a show. Felix and Kitty tied themselves in knots, Bebra performed songs on beer bottles, Roswitha played the fortune teller, and Oskar played his drum, then shattered a beer bottle over a soldier with his voice. After the show, Oskar and Roswitha lay together. Roswitha was scared, but Oskar infused her with his courage. He was eighteen, but could not tell Roswitha's age - her face showed no trace of time. She could have been nineteen or ninety-nine - there was no way to tell.

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