Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Curiosity and Adventure are two words I feel best represent Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a fictional book written by Jonathan Safran Foer set in New York City after 9/11 around 2003 - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close introduction. The story involves a nine year old named Oskar Schell, a self-proclaimed future inventor and explorer. Oskar is our narrator throughout the story who tells us the events in his life in the first person point of view. Oskar, being the protagonist and focal point of the story, shows us the struggle of losing someone in a tragedy, showing us flashbacks of his father when he was alive and the activities they would do together that serve to fill the large void in his life.
Oskar is known to himself and others as an inventor equipped with such a great world with imagination and knowledge. He is also an atheist, pacifist, explorer and scientist. He also makes a point to use the fact that he can speak French to his advantage. In the beginning, Oskar and his father Thomas Schell, show an inseparable union between father and son by the strong connection the two had between each other. Whether it be spell-checking the Sunday paper or playing their Reconnaissance Expeditions on Sundays, there were always activities planned. Nonetheless, the death of his father in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 has taken a large toll on him. Oskar has suddenly lost the second half of his well-being and cruises into a sad, depressed state of mind. Along with the social and mental disconnection from his mother (who will never fall in love again), it has been more of Oskar to start fending for himself in certain situations.
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During some time, Oskar has grown to miss things from his father that he has grown to love. Like their chats and debates on issues in society to Thomas’ faint smell of aftershave, Oskar truely misses it all. He even secretly kept his father’s voicemails that he left during his last hour in the World Trade Center. While reminiscing through his father’s belongings in his closet for that faint smell, Oskar comes across something mysterious. A key in his father’s clothes which has the name “Black” written on it. Thinking this was a clue from the game they played, Oskar began searching for the clues that his father most likely sent him out to look for.
After some thinking, Oskar grabbed a phone book and began searching for everybody in New York City under the name “Black.” Now adventuring on a mission to meet every “Black” in the city and find a lock for the key. Setting out every Saturday, Oskar would meet two people and in alphabetical order. This meant one day might be spent adventuring from Staten Island to the Bronx, a lengthy journey. After meeting a substantial amount of people, Oskar has found no one who has any information relating to the key, his father or its lock. In lieu of all of this searching, Oskar meets several people and learns a little bit about others lives along the way.
Oskar soon realizes that these journeys take a lot of time and concentration to accomplish. What is really opposing Oskar is his himself. His fear of public transportation hinders his time to meet these people, having to walk everywhere. Oskar’s feeling of defeat and failing at each person he meets who does not have any information overwhelms him, making him lose track of what journey he set out on. What all of this is caused by is the quest he thought his father sent him out on, but it is really the quest to find a lock to this key to open doors to uncover his great mystery.
Alongside the life and journey of Oskar’s life, the author discusses the lives of Oskar’s grandparents, survivors of the fire bombings in Dresden, Germany in WWII. They tell the tragedies of their lives and well-being during that time, and how his grandfather lost the love of his life, who is the sister of his Grandmother.
On his journey through the “Blacks,” Oskar has recruited the renter of his Grandmother’s apartment to accompany him to research and visit everywhere in New York City. In fact, the renter in reality is Oskar’s long gone Grandfather, who has been scarred by the loss of his love that he may no longer speak and speaks through writing and using his hands which are inscribed with “Yes” and “No.”
On their journeys, Oskar has let most of his fears and tensions go because of his Grandfather’s help and reassurance that nothing bad will happen to him, which helps them get farther down the road. But soon, Oskar realizes that this road leads nowhere and quits the journey for quite some time. Oskar soon felt defeat by this great wave of struggle. But soon, time came and Oskar was called up by Abby Black, one of the first whom he had visited and she said that was wrong about her knowledge about the key. What she did in fact know was that her ex-husband was looking for a key. Abby brought Oskar to his office and introduced him to William Black. William and Oskar chatted for a bit and he explained that he had lost his key to his deceased father’s safety deposit box, which stored much of his inheritance. He also explained that he had sold the vase which housed the key to Oskar’s late-father. Much to Oskar’s despise, he leaves the key and storms out realizing that his great journey to find what his father had left him searching has been a total waste. But what Oskar has truly found is overcoming his own personal struggles in life. From his fear of city transportation to issues with his own mother, most of his issues after his father’s death have been resolved and a happier Oskar emerges with his new found life and is gracefully coping with his loss.
After his expeditions, adventures, and seeking, Oskar found out something very surprising with him. It is true that his mother has known about his disappearances every Saturday and all about his journeys to see the “Blacks” along with his maps and everything. In fact, Oskar’s mother has been seeing all the people named “Black” in advance before Oskar got to see them to ensure his safety and give them a heads up. Oskar found that this understanding from his mother revealed a secret bond that he thought never existed.
Honestly, this book was a very interesting book with many small but elegant details.
I liked how Oskar was always personal or snoop around someones house in efforts to find out information. These small occurrences made me laugh due to the fact that Oskar didn’t realize what depths he was going at. Another part of the story that I enjoyed was how there was a back story to the Grandparents because I never fully understood them. I only wish that their stories (parallel to the book) had more depth and had continued on for a bit longer. The book could have also had a backstory for his dad as well.
“I like to see people reunited, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone.” – Jonathan Safran Foer
These lines showed me that Oskar, deep down inside, will always want his father back and he will be waiting inside for that moment. From what I see, by witnessing this happen, Oskar fills himself up with hope and merry thoughts to fill his void of love and affection from his united family. I also realized that this quote stands true, for instance, when I get back home up North, this usually happens with all of my friends and family, with a little less drama. I also realize when we reunite, we are free of missing one another, waiting, suspense and stress. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is the life of Oskar Schell who is seeking answers to a mystery not solved. Losing his father in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, Oskar has been very numb to his mother and all around him. Also losing what life meant to him and what values he cherished and treasured. One day, after finding a hidden key, Oskar embarks on a lengthy journey that shapes his life from what he knew it was. New experiences, new people and new ideas are some of the new things Oskar has grown into while Coming of Age. While on the journey, Oskar decided to quit when he has already gone so far, but when fate reaches him, its actually Abby Black on the other side. Abby brings Oskar to her ex-husband where Oskar finds out that not only did the key have a lock, but the lock was found, but the key was just in the wrong hands. After realizing that his adventures, expeditions and journeys were a complete waste, Oskar really found what his father wanted him to find, a strong bond with family, though lost with his father, it was found through his mother, winning his treasure already.