Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close Theme Essay Question
The three main themes in Foer's novel are death, loss, and emotional trauma. There are several deaths alluded to: Oskar's father; Oskar's grandmother's sister, Anna; Ron's wife and daughter; as well as the families of Oskar's grandmother and grandfather during World War II; and the wife of Mr. A. R. Black and the father of Mr. William Black. All the major and most of the minor characters have been affected by death of a loved one. They have all suffered a loss. The story focuses on how they have dealt, or are dealing, with their personal tragedies.
Oskar's experience is the main focus of the novel. He is not doing very well. He is inflicting physical harm to himself in an attempt to either mask or distract from the emotional pain that weighs him down. He is constantly referring to the heavy boots he has been forced to wear since his father died. He is torn between figuring out how his father died and not wanting to know for sure. He listens to his father's final phone messages just to hear his voice, but he hates hearing the desperation. He also admits that there was one other phone call. His father called while Oskar was sitting by the phone, and Oskar refused to answer it. He finds out later that his father had called his mother at work, so Oskar believes that the last phone call was specifically for him. He was not brave enough to pick up the receiver and hear his father's final words.
Oskar's grandfather, after the tragedies he suffered in World War II in Germany, refuses to talk. He also refuses to love. He no longer wants to be attached to anyone, though he cannot completely rid himself of those he has loved. He constantly sees Anna, his true love, in other people. He writes letters to the son he never met. He leaves but must return to his wife, Oskar's grandmother, but as an anonymous "renter." He develops a relationship with Oskar, but he never reveals that he is the boy’s grandfather. Like his hands (one tattooed with the...
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Oskar is an extremely verbally precocious nine-year-old––he and Dad used to comb the New York Times for typos as a relaxing evening activity. Oskar is a hyper-verbal narrator who tells us everything that’s on his mind, and he has an enormous vocabulary. Oskar thinks about words all the time; in the first chapter, for example, he squints at a map, connects dots to see “FRAGILE,” and discusses every single association he has with the word “fragile,” as though he were writing his own private dictionary definition. Oskar also has his own private codes for things: “wearing heavy boots,” for example, is his way of describing fear and sadness. Oskar clings to the belief that everything can be solved through puzzles and expeditions: that if he just interprets something correctly, or if he just finds one more clue, one more word, that will provide some sort of answers or closure to the gaping hole that the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers left both on New York City and in his own life.
If Oskar uses an overabundance of words and digressions, then Oskar’s Grandpa has the opposite problem: he doesn’t speak out loud at all. Oskar’s Grandpa loses his ability to speak after the trauma of seeing his loved ones die in the Dresden firebombing during World War II. He has “YES” and “NO” tattooed on his hands, and he write brief notes in a daybook to communicate anything more complicated. Even though Grandpa can’t speak out loud, however, he does write several long letters about his past. It’s never clear exactly to whom these letters are written—either Oskar’s Dad or Grandpa’s unborn child who died in Dresden—but they were never sent, and never read by their intended audience.
The most meaningful communication in the novel, even though the novel is so loaded with verbal fireworks, is wordless. Oskar’sMom is silently following his journey: unbeknownst to either Oskar or the reader, she knows exactly what he’s doing and alerts each person that he is on his way. Grandpa cares tremendously about his family, but never speaks out loud. Even Oskar, for all of his verbal precocity, learns that love is deeper than language. The novel ends with images, not words. Jonathan Safran Foer presents the reader with a backwards flipbook of a man falling out of the World Trade Center: instead of going down, the man appears to be falling up. This wordless, upside-down, tragic, yet expectant image provides more closure than words could convey: even though the flipbook is traumatic and terrifying, there’s also a tremendous amount of hope that the reader can’t help but feel when we see the man flying upwards.