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The Tin Drum


Summary of "The Tin Drum" Excerpt


  • Author: Günter Grass
  • Source: Excerpt from "The Tin Drum"


This excerpt from "The Tin Drum" captures a vivid, somewhat surreal scene involving the narrator's grandmother. The setting is a tranquil afternoon by a potato fire, which quickly evolves into a bizarre and whimsical chase involving three mysterious men.

Key Elements

  • Grandmother's Routine: The passage opens with the grandmother engaging in her simple, almost ritualistic task of cooking and eating potatoes by the fire. Her actions are described in great detail, emphasizing a sense of grounding and regularity.
  • Appearance of Three Men: The tranquility is interrupted by the sudden appearance of three men, characterized as "Short and Wide" and "Long and Thin." Their frantic movements and the subsequent chase add an element of chaos and absurdity to the scene.
  • Surreal Imagery: The men's exaggerated physical descriptions and their peculiar actions, like hopping around telegraph poles and disappearing into the horizon, create a surreal and almost dreamlike atmosphere.
  • Interaction with the Grandmother: The climax occurs when one of the men, "Short and Wide," seeks refuge under the grandmother's skirts. This action breaks the boundaries of normalcy and injects a sense of magical realism into the narrative.
  • Rural Setting: The description of the potato fire, the fields, and the brickworks chimney anchors the scene in a rural, perhaps early 20th-century European setting.


  • Absurdity and Surrealism: The narrative thrives on the absurd and surreal, reflecting Grass's style of blending reality with fantastical elements.
  • Human Nature and Compassion: The grandmother's act of hiding one of the men suggests themes of compassion and human connection amidst the bizarre circumstances.


This excerpt from "The Tin Drum" is a fine example of Günter Grass's unique storytelling style, where everyday scenes are infused with elements of the surreal, creating a rich, imaginative tapestry that speaks to both the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of life.