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There are many issues, themes, and underlying meanings in Safran Foer’s novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The story is told through the perspective of Oskar Schell, a remarkably perceptive, sensitive, and intelligent 9-year-old boy. The age of the boy introduces the irony in the story from the very beginning. Additional insight is provided through the letters of Oskar’s grandfather to his father and Oskar’s grandmother’s letters to him.
Themes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Safran Foer
The events of the novel are set in motion with the death of Oskar’s father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the world trade center, where he was having a meeting. (Foer 16-33) In my opinion, a central theme highlighted by Foer, in the novel is trauma, particularly emotional trauma.
In the analysis of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, it is possible to apply McCloud’s “show and tell.” In the book, McCloud reflects about years past, in grade school, when showing and telling were concepts that were virtually interchangeable. (Smith 79) This implies that, at that time, putting a message across meant showing it and vice-versa. This technique has been utilized In the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Presenting the story from Oskar’s point of view, a 9-year-old boy, is an illustration of this fact.
A central theme that runs through the novel is trauma. Practically every character in the book has experienced death and loss in one form or another and is dealing with the traumas in the best way they know.
The narrator of the novel, Oskar, is traumatized by the death of his father. Oskar and his father shared a very close relationship characterized by a shared love for solving mysteries. Oskar considered his father his best friend, so he felt the loss particularly hard. Oskar’s trauma is manifested by a measure of self-mutilation.
He also becomes intensely secretive, before Oskar’s father died. He left many panicked phone messages, Oskar is the only person who heard these messages, he bought a new phone and replaced the old one to prevent his mother from noticing. Oskar holds fast to this secret, perhaps as a link to his father that only he shares. Moreover, the quest by Oskar to find the person named Black, who has information about the key, which is a symbol of personal growth in the story, can be construed as an expression of him trying to deal with the trauma of his father’s death.
As is evident from the summary of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Oskar’s mother is also traumatized by the death of her husband. She seems to have retreated into her own silent world, where she barely seems to notice anything at all. This, at least, is the impression that the narrator, Oskar, has. The fact that his mother does not see things appears not to be entirely accurate because she does notice the bruises that Oskar inflicts on himself.
Though Oskar’s grandfather acts as a foil to intensify Oskar’s suffering, he also experiences trauma. His grandfather expresses this trauma through his letters to Oskar’s father. Oskar’s grandfather reveals that he was in love with Anna, the elder sister of grandmother. Anna was killed during World War II when bombs were dropped on the house, killing everyone but Anna’s grandmother. This loss is so traumatic to him that he is unable to love and unable to speak. In the ending of the story it is clear that this trauma is cited as the reason why Oskar’s grandparents divorced. Nevertheless, after the funeral grandfather decides t return to family.
The novel also examines the experience of communal trauma. This trauma is exemplified by the World War 2 bombings of Dresden that resulted in the death of the entire family of Oskar’s grandmother. The theme extends to the trauma experienced in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World trade center that resulted in the death of Oskar’s father. In the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, characters deal with the trauma in their own personal style.
In the novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, death can be cited as a representative example. Closely associated with the experience of death is the concept of loss. The book is grounded on the experience of death, 1he effect that it has on the characters and how the characters cope with the situation.
The most notable representative example is the September 9/11 terrorist attacks. This event resulted in the death of thousands of people also resulted in the death of the father of the narrator. Death and loss are also highlighted when the narrator’s grandfather loses the woman he loved and his unborn child. Oskar’s grandmother, on the other hand, lost her entire family during World War II bombings in Dresden.
In Foer’s novel, death was not limited to the major characters. In Oskar’s quest to find the person who owns the, he meets several interesting characters. These characters also suffer from death and loss. This loss is experienced by Mr. A. R Black and Mr. William Black, both of who lose close family members.
Relationship Between Image and Text
In examining the relationship between image and writing in the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, it would be useful to mention McCloud’s “show and tell.” McCloud examines the relationship that exists between text and image and determines that the distinction between text and images has been blurring over the years to the extent that the two have blurred into each other. (McCloud 3-5)
This relationship between text and images in the novel is exemplified by the corrections made by the red pen during Oskar’s grandfather’s description of the bombing in Dresden. This description is arguably one of the most important texts in the book, and the image of the red pen serves to highlight it.
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In the novel, the author uses the imagery of intentionally adding blank pages. The author also included some passages in intentionally compressed texts. These techniques were utilized by the author as visual imagery to the writing in the novel. Thus, the setting of the story is comprehensive for the reader from the very beginning, and the community in which the boy lives is fully described.
In the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Safran Foer establishes an interaction between text and images with the use of pictures and other extra-textual material. In the book, Foer sets a strong link between texts and images and uses the techniques to create a powerfully moving story. These texts and images interact to prove that these two features can exist harmoniously together in works of literature.
In my opinion, the novel is a sublime masterpiece that seamlessly blends images and texts. In the analysis of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, , I attempted to highlight the relationship that exists between image and text in the novel. I also tried to critically examine the theme of trauma in the story and identify and describe a representative example in the novel. The experience of writing the essay was challenging but also enlightening, and I was able to understand parts of the book that, before now, had eluded my grasp.
Foer, Jonathan. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; NY: First Marine Books Inc. (2005) 16-33.
McCloud, Scott. Understanding comics. Michigan; Kitchen Sink Press. (1993) 3-5.
Smith, A. D., Smith, T. G., Bobbitt, R. Teaching in the Pop Culture Zone; Using Popular Culture in the Composition USA. Wadsworth Cengage Learning Inc. (2009).