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Chapter 46: Thirty Notes from The Tin Drum

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The Tin Drum Chapter 46: Thirty

In the mental institution, Oskar writes of his flight on his thirtieth birthday. Klepp gave him jazz records, and Vittlar gave him chocolate and said that when Jesus was thirty, he gathered disciples. Oskar doesn't like the idea. Oskar's lawyer came and told him that the ring finger case that put Oskar there was being reopened. He said that new evidence had been found pointing to one Sister Beata as the real killer. Oskar says he has been dreading this - that they would reopen the case and discharge him from the hospital, take away his white enamel bed, and force him to take up disciples.

Dr. Erich Werner, the man who had sent Sister Dorothea the coy love letters that Oskar had secretly read, was in love only with Sister Dorothea. Sister Dorothea's best friend Sister Beata, however, was in love with Dr. Werner. Even though Sister Dorothea was not in love with Dr. Werner, Sister Beata became jealous of the doctor's affection for her friend and killed her. But Doctor Werner had been sick and Beata wanted to take care of him - she made sure that he did not get better, and he, too, died at Beata's hand. Oskar had found Dorothea's severed ring finger and had Vittlar turn him in for a crime he did not commit.

When Oskar fled, he was twenty-eight, and he fled in order to add validity to Vittlar's statement against him. Although his grandmother's four skirts were the destination of choice, they lay to the east behind the Iron Curtain. Oskar decided to make a run for America and the fable of his supposed paper baron grandfather Joseph Koljaiczek, who according to the legend, was living in Buffalo, New York under the name Joe Colchic. Oskar decided to go through Paris first. On the train, Oskar resolved that no flight was complete without a general, insidious fear. He had to talk himself into being afraid; he says the fear is still with him today.

Oskar says that the gear her concocted took the form of the Black Witch from the childhood songs the children used to sing in Danzig. This witch takes on many forms herself - sometimes, for instance, she takes the form of Goethe. Oskar arrived in Paris and took the Metro, fearing capture by the International Police at any moment.

Oskar wonders at his story's ending, and is unsure that the escalator at the Metro stop is a symbolic enough ending; he offers his thirtieth birthday as an alternate ending. At thirty, he says, you've lost your right to cry. On the Metro escalator, Oskar began to laugh. He could see detectives waiting for him at the top of the escalator. Oskar was thrown into the past on the escalator, for as he says, an escalator ride is a good time to reconsider.

Oskar says that thirty brings a man possibilities, for there are so many things he should do: start a career, start a family, emigrate - Oskar might open a stonecutter's business, propose again to Maria, or go to America.

At the top of the escalator, two detectives stood in raincoats. The two brazen lovers and the old woman with Oskar on the escalator ride turned out to be detectives. Oskar sums up his life:

"What more shall I say: born under light bulbs, deliberately stopped growing at age of three, given drum, sang glass to pieces, smelled vanilla, coughed in churches, observed ants, decided to grow, buried drum, emigrated to the West, lost the East, learned stonecutter's trade, worked as model, started drumming again, visited concrete, made money, kept finger, gave finger away, fled laughing, rode up escalator, arrested, convicted, sent to mental hospital, soon to be acquitted, celebrating this day my thirtieth birthday and still afraid of the Black Witch." Chapter 46, pg. 587

The detectives at the top of the stairs called him Matzerath. Oskar replied that he was Jesus, first in German, then in French, and finally in English. They arrested him as Oskar Matzerath.

Oskar says that tomorrow he will drum up the Black Witch and consult her. She has always been there with him, through everything. She was in every action; her shadow has followed him always, and she is forever in front of him, coming closer.

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