A child’s relationship with his or her parents is a sensitive and moving concept as well as an interesting one to be presented in a contemporary book. This is especially if such idea is being discussed in a point of view of a nine-year-old main character. Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 book titled “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” is an example of how a very young yet notably intelligent boy named Oskar Schell was able to effectively tell or portray his relationships with his parents, as well as his grandparents.
The relationships between Oskar and his parents, as well as with that of his paternal grandparents, are compared with something which can only be imagined and invented. This is because with the extra-ordinary personality of Oskar, his character actually just played up on a lot of scenarios and possibilities that enabled him to establish his relationships with his immediate family and create a connection that only he was able to recognize.
It was actually through the uniqueness of Oskar’s persona that allowed Foer to depict the implications of several serious issues such as the World War II firebombing of Dresden and 9/11 terrorist attack. In effect, Oskar’s relationships with his parents and paternal grandparents has proven Foer’s ability to effectively depict that war, terrorism, the future and love are concepts which are loud and close. However, it was likewise Oskar’s family links which determined that there are also things in the book or even realities of life that are seem to be silent and far away such as human relationship.
The main character of the Foer’s novel is a nine-year-old boy named Oskar Schell. He is characterized in the books as a discoverer, jewelry designer, a young entomologist, protagonist, music enthusiast, good writer, archaeologist, artist, explorer, actor in a Hamlet production, sometimes a vegetarian, and collector of rare items, but definitely an unreliable narrator. Through these attributes, Oskar manifests the loudness and closeness of life realities such as war, coercion, and love.
Eventually, he realizes how quiet and distant his relationship with his parents and grandparents is. Foer unveiled the story of Oskar with the death of Oskar’s father who was among the many Americans who died when the twin towers were attacked in the morning of September 11, 2001. This is the point where Oskar exerts efforts to trace the sense of his father’s death. Instead, however, his journey leads him to recognize and eventually accept what kind of relationship he has with his parents and paternal grandparents.
Notwithstanding the efforts made by Oskar in order to establish his relationship with his parents and grandparents, he ends up understanding his sincere fondness towards his family as the mystery behind their relationships is uncovered, and ultimately searching for their love or affection (Foer, 2005). Foer’s utilization of magical realism, the book’s literary genre, as presented in a form of photographs in the book, exposed that Oskar was apparently too late in realizing how he long for the love or affection of his father who was taken away from him so early and made their relationship short-lived.
Moreover, Oskar’s incomparable personality has also paved the way for an unassuming and clear presentation of how he relates with his mother whom he criticized for not mourning the death of her husband because of her new-found love. Foer, through the perspective of a nine-year-old boy, was also able to connect past event such as the Dresden bombing with Oskar’s longing of his grandparents whom he was not able to see; he was only able to get to know them through their letters which were written way before he was born.
Such literary styles of Foer and ironic scenarios involving Oskar’s life provided the readers with a glimpse of how a father values his son. As portrayed in the three generations of the Schell family, Foer disclosed the long-desired but belated connection among the three men—a relationship that is coincidentally loud, yet silent and close, yet far away (Foer, 2005). Such contradicting metaphors are also evident with how the author presented the relationships between Oskar and the women in his life—his mother and grandmother.
The child in Oskar was apparently obvious in times when he displayed some sort of jealousy with the new man in his mother’s life as well as bitterness with his grandmother’s absence. In particular, the book showed that Oskar endured the emotions of hatred and mental confusion apparently due to his mother’s new-found man. He expresses such feelings by hurting himself until he got bruises. This indication, however, only exposed more the kind of relationship that Oskar had with his mother and grandmother.
It turned out to be a relationship similar to his father and grandfather; it was characterized with the boy’s intense desire of their affections and centered on his profound longing for their love. Foer emphasized how Oskar, despite his hardships, valued life and his relationships with his family as he echoed the boy’s feelings and said that “… life made sense. Even the bad things made sense. They were necessary to make you possible. Alas. Your songs. My parents’ lives made sense” (Foer, 2005, p. 232).
It was unfortunate to note, however, that the realization of an equally utmost relationship, which Oskar’s parents and grandparents actually wanted, was not achieved. Hence, the boy was left with his unique antics and loneliness (Foer, 2005). Meanwhile, the novel did not only result in giving praise to Foer. Rather, the story unlocks the mysteries in Oskar’s journey as well through which a clearer representation of the impacts of life realities is provided. The book suggests that there a lot of substances as there are emotions in this world.
However, the realization and benefit of enjoying life instead of succumbing to absurdity is actually not impossible if only one would open his or her heart to the eventualities of love which will eventually challenge one’s worries and loss. The book makes Oskar as an adorable yet intriguing character because he exudes both naivete and sophistication and one can be truly affected by his fate. Although the novel discusses real issues like war and terrorism, it embraces other life’s dramas which are led by the portrayal of Oskar as a tough character trapped inside the body of a boy.
Furthermore, it is worthy to note that amidst darkness in Oskar’s life, he was able to see light. This, in effect, can lead the readers to recover humanity which is human’s link with one another especially during times when human quality is apparently abandoned. In the end, Foer’s book shows the balance between wit and disaster, devastation and innovation, living and dying, and, most definitely, between showing the loudness and closeness of life realities.
Courtney from Study Moose
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