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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Essay

For my book report I read the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. This book was published by Haughton Mifflin in 2005. The novel takes place mostly in New York City, shortly after terrorists destroy the Twin Towers in 2001. However, the time switches from the narrator’s present to the late 1940s when his grandparents are newlyweds and even farther back to when they are teenagers in Germany. In the present time, Oskar lives in an apartment building. Across the street, in another building, is his grandmother. The two of them sometimes communicate with one another through signs in their windows and walkie-talkies.

The main protagonist of the novel is a 9 year old boy named Oskar Schell. Oskar’s father, Thomas Schell, dies in the attack on the world trade center in 2001. While looking through his father’s closet, Oskar finds a key inside a vase, along with a slip of paper reading “Black.” Curious, Oskar sets off on a mission to contact every person in New York City with the last name Black, in alphabetical order, in order to find the lock to the key his father left behind. The novel also tells a separate narrative that eventually converges with the main story through a series of letters written by Oskar’s grandfather to Oskar’s father and by Oskar’s grandmother to Oskar himself. After almost a year of searching, Oskar is about to give up. After Oskar got vital news from one of the first blacks he met he goes and meets with a peculiar man named William Black. Oskar then gives William Black two keys, the one to the William’s father’s safe-deposit box and one for Oskar’s apartment.

Oskar returns home and decides to dig up his father’s grave. He is joined in his mission by the renter, and after opening the empty coffin Oskar decides to fill it, but he is unable to decide what with. The renter suggests the letters that he wrote but was never able to send to his son, and they fill the coffin and re-bury it. Upon coming home, Oskar flips through a succession of photographs depicting a man’s fall from the World Trade Center. The main character of the story, Oskar Schell, a self-proclaimed inventor, is the nine-year-old protagonist. His thoughts have a tendency to trail off into several far-flung ideas, such as ambulances that alert passerby to the severity of their passengers’ conditions and plantlike skyscrapers, and he has several assorted hobbies and collections.

He is very trusting of strangers and makes friends easily, though he does not have many friends his own age. Oskar’s grandfather, Thomas Schell Sr. (also referred to as “the renter”) is an important character in the story, even though he does not physically meet Oskar until the book’s end. After the death of his first love, Anna, Oskar’s grandfather loses his voice completely and consequently tattoos the words “yes” and “no” on his hands. He carries around a “daybook” where he writes phrases he cannot speak aloud. Major themes of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close include trauma, mourning, family, and the struggle between self-destruction and self-preservation. One literary journal provides an in-depth analysis of the specific types of trauma and recuperative measures that Oskar’s grandmother and Oskar’s grandfather go though after the Dresden fire bombings, and that Oskar goes through after the loss of his father.

The journal states that Oskar has a simultaneous death wish and extreme need for self-preservation: this theme is echoed in Thomas Schell Sr.’s pronounced survivor guilt and Oskar’s grandmother’s well-disguised inability to cope with her trauma. It also states that though Oskar’s journey to “find” his father does not help him get over his traumatic experience, it does allow him to grow closer to his mother. In my opinion the book was a well written story and honestly made me look at my life and made me realize that it’s not as bad as I thought it was. I think that Oskar’s grandfather should have told him who he was. Even if I don’t read this book again I would definitely recommend this book to others.


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