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Literary Precedents for The Rat

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It is hard to read the repeating chapters of The Rat without recalling the nursery rhyme round song, "Three Blind Mice." At least seven other authors and works are clearly precedents for the novel. The reappearance of Oskar Matzerath is indirectly a reference to Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1759-1767), which Grass has acknowledged as an influence. The erudite assembly of scientific, behavioral, and legendary information about rats mirrors Herman Melville's elaboration of whale lore in Moby Dick (1851), another acknowledged influence. The humor and ironically playful personality is clearly imitative of Henry Fielding's eighteenth-century comic novels.

The combined phantasmagoria of the postcatastrophe setting and the frenetic and manic behavior of the fairy-tale characters are marvelously reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865). The classic epic twelve-chapter structure of the novel, along with its biblical echoes, concerted anti-Catholicism, and doomsday dialectic, suggest affinities with John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667). In the...

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This section contains 213 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Rat Short Guide
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