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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Plot Summary. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts.
The book's narrator is a nine-year-old boy named Oskar Schell. In the story, Oskar discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father, a year after he is killed in the September 11 attacks. The discovery inspires Oskar to search all around New York for information about the key and closure following his father's death.
Oskar Schell is a nine-year-old boy whose father, Thomas Schell, died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, The novel begins after the tragedy, with Oskar narrating. Since his father's death, Oskar struggles with insomnia , panic attacks, and depression. He often describes the feeling of depression as wearing heavy boots, and deals with this by giving himself bruises.
His relationship with his mother has also become strained, particularly as she has started dating a man named Ron, whom he resents for replacing his father.
One day, in his father's closet, Oskar finds a key in a small envelope inside a vase that he accidentally broke; in the keyshop he finds the name Black and thinks this has something to do with the key.
Curious, Oskar sets out on a mission to contact every person in New York City with the last name of Black in the hope of finding the lock that belongs to the key his father left behind, creating a binder with mementos of his journey. One of the first people Oskar meets is a year-old woman named Abby Black. Oskar and Abby instantly become friends, but she has no information on the key. Oskar continues to search the city. Toward the end of his journey Oskar meets an old man he calls "the renter" because until the point of meeting, Oskar had only heard of the old man's existence from his grandmother who referred to him as the new tenant in her apartment.
The reader learns towards the end of the book that "the renter" is actually Oskar's grandfather, who abandoned his grandmother while she was pregnant with Thomas, though Oskar does not realise the connection.
The book spans many months of Oskar's journey, some of which he is accompanied by his eccentric elderly neighbour, Mr. Black, and they develop a close friendship. After meeting with a woman named Ruth in the Empire State Building , who has a history of her own with the building, Mr. Black ends his travels with Oskar, who struggles with his departure. He tries to visit Mr. Black again later but finds out he has moved house, presumably to be with Ruth, and is selling his apartment, leaving behind a card for Oskar, reading "Oskar Schell: Son".
Eight months after Oskar initially met Abby, he finds a message from her on the answering machine. Oskar had not touched that phone since his father died because his father's last words had been on an identical answering machine which Oskar had kept hidden from his mother.
Oskar finds out that Abby called him directly after his visit, saying she was not completely honest with him and might be able to help. Oskar returns to Abby's apartment after listening to this message, and Abby directs him to her ex-husband, William Black. When Oskar talks to William, he learns that the key once belonged to William's father.
In his will, William's father left William a key to a safe-deposit box, but William had already sold the vase at the estate sale to Thomas Schell. Disappointed that the key does not belong to him, Oskar then gives William the key and goes home angry and sad, not interested in the contents of the box. Oskar also discovers that his mother knew about his activities the entire time and was contacting everyone with the name Black in New York City. After the first few visits she called every Black that he would meet and informed them that Oskar was going to visit and why.
In response, the people Oskar met knew ahead of time why he was coming and usually treated him in a friendly manner. Resolving to try to move on from his father's death, Oskar bonds with Ron after finding out that he met his mother at a support group after having lost his wife and daughter in a car accident. On the second anniversary of his father's death, Oskar meets with "the renter" and they go to dig up his father's grave.
Contemplating on what to put into the empty coffin, "the renter" decides to bury various letters that he had written to his unborn son. Shortly after returning home, Oskar reconciles with his mother and vows to become better and allow for her to find happiness again, and she tells him how Oskar's father lied to her in his last call, telling her that he was coming home, to assure her not to worry over his death.
Before going to bed, Oskar takes out his binder and proceeds to rearrange the pages in reverse in an attempt to relive the last few hours with his father and achieve closure. The novel has a parallel narrative that eventually converges with the main story. This narrative is portrayed through a series of letters written by Oskar's grandfather to Oskar's father Thomas, and by Oskar's grandmother to Oskar himself.
The letters written by Oskar's grandfather explain his past in World War II, his first love, and his marriage to Oskar's grandmother. The letters written by Oskar's grandmother explain her past in meeting Oskar's grandfather, the trouble in their relationship, and how important Oskar is to her.
Upon learning of his son's death, Oskar's grandfather promptly returns to New York and tracks down Oskar and his grandmother. His grandmother decides to let him live with her in her apartment temporarily, which results in them becoming intimate, and he watches over Oskar from afar before meeting him.
Shortly after burying the letters with Oskar, his grandfather returns to the airport where Oskar's grandmother follows him. After discussing the war, losing their loved ones and their marriage, they decide to stay in the airport for a while. The final pages are a flip-book style animation of a photograph of a man falling from the World Trade Center. The animation makes the man appear to fall upwards.
He is an eccentric, intelligent, and clever young boy who self-identifies as a number of things including inventor, amateur entomologist , origamist, and amateur archaeologist. He often contemplates deeper topics and shows great empathy beyond what the average 9-year-old might have.
His thoughts have a tendency to trail off into far-flung ideas, such as ambulances that alert passersby 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. In the film it is alluded that he has Asperger's syndrome.
Oskar mentions being taken in for testing in his first interaction with Abby Black, however he states that " Tests weren't definitive. Oskar's mother , Linda Schell, referred to as "Mom" by Oskar in the book, cares for her family greatly. After Thomas's death, Linda tells Oskar "I won't fall in love again. Oskar's grandmother is a kind woman who is very protective of Oskar. She calls out to him often, and Oskar always responds with "I'm okay" out of habit.
When she arrived in the United States, she read as many magazines as she could to integrate herself into the culture and language. As Anna's Oskar's grandfather's first love younger sister, she enters into a tumultuous marriage with Oskar's grandfather, and the couple breaks up before the events of the novel. Black is an elderly man who is one hundred and three years of age, who lives in the same apartment building as Oskar, and joins him for some of his journey.
Prior to meeting Oskar, Mr. Black had not left his apartment in twenty-four years, after having had a rather adventurous life. He is nearly deaf, and cries after Oskar turns on his hearing aids after a "long time" where he was unable to hear. Oskar's grandfather , Thomas Schell Sr. 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.
He marries Anna's younger sister, Oskar's grandmother. Anna is an absent character. She is Oskar's grandfather's first love. Oskar's grandfather falls in love with her instantly. She is Oskar's grandmother's sister. Abby Black is William Black's ex-wife. She is forty-eight years old and lives by herself.
She is friendly and welcoming to Oskar when he arrives at her house, though she does decline Oskar's offer of a kiss. Oskar's father , Thomas Schell, dies before the events of the book begin, having been in 1 World Trade Center the day of the attacks.
Oskar remembers him as caring, smelling of aftershave and always humming the song "I Am the Walrus" by The Beatles. Thomas Schell organizes several expeditions for Oskar, such as a game to find an object from every decade of the past century. These adventures with his father are one of the reasons Oskar begins his journey about the key. Jonathan Safran Foer's inspiration for his main character came when having difficulty with another project.
In an interview, Foer stated, "I was working on another story and I just started to feel the drag of it. And so, as a side project, I got interested in the voice of this kid. I thought maybe it could be a story; maybe it would be nothing. I found myself spending more and more time on it and wanting to work on that".
Foer was sleeping off jet lag after returning to New York City from a trip to Spain, when he was woken by a phone call from a friend: "He said, 'You have to turn on the TV, a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. If you're in my position—a New Yorker who felt the event very deeply and a writer who wants to write about things he feels deeply about—I think it's risky to avoid what's right in front of you.
Sien Uytterschout and Kristiaan Versluys have examined the specific types of trauma and recuperative measures that Oskar's grandmother and grandfather go through after the Dresden bombings and that Oskar goes through after the loss of his father. They argue that Oskar has a simultaneous death wish and extreme need for self-preservation: This theme is echoed in Thomas Schell, Sr.
It is also important to note the impact of the child narrator on the effectiveness of the theme of trauma. In the novel, Oskar never directly addresses through his narration the trauma he faced. Only through his journey through the city and through his grandparents' letters does he mimic the journey one must take when coping with trauma. Jonathan Safran Foer's novel was one of many that confronted the aftermath of the attacks through the eyes of a New Yorker.
Foer utilizes the child narrator in an attempt to connect with that struggle. Because of its great popularity, its message had a greater impact than many novels of its kind.
Apart from the terrorist attacks of September 11, the novel also sheds light on the experience of terrible tragedy. Rebecca Miller of the Library Journal claims "Foer nimbly explores the misunderstandings that compound when grief silences its victims. John Updike , writing for The New Yorker , found the novel to be "thinner, overextended, and sentimentally watery," compared to Foer's first novel. He stated, "the book's hyperactive visual surface covers up a certain hollow monotony in its verbal drama.
Foer's myriad gifts as a writer, the novel as a whole feels simultaneously contrived and improvisatory, schematic and haphazard. The topic of the child narrator is a contentious one.
You've discovered a title that's missing from our library. Can you help donate a copy? When you buy books using these links the Internet Archive may earn a small commission. Open Library is a project of the Internet Archive , a c 3 non-profit. A new novel by the author of Everything Is Illuminated introduces Oskar Schell, the nine-year-old son of a man killed in the World Trade Center bombing who searches the city for a lock that fits a black key his father left behind.
The book's narrator is a nine-year-old boy named Oskar Schell. In the story, Oskar discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father, a year after he is killed in the September 11 attacks. The discovery inspires Oskar to search all around New York for information about the key and closure following his father's death. Oskar Schell is a nine-year-old boy whose father, Thomas Schell, died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11,
Throughout this chapter, phrases are circled in red, primarily to mark errors, but sometimes for unknown reasons. Every day he writes his son a letter but has never sent any of them. When Anna gives Thomas the typewriter Grandma later uses for her memoir, Anna wants him to write her a letter. Thomas writes about fanciful homes the two of them will live in one day. Thomas kisses her and her stomach. He never sees her again. Thomas sees flares drop and runs into the shelter.
Read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer with a free trial. A New York Times Bestseller • Named A Best Book of the Year by the Los You could bury people one hundred floors down, and a whole dead world.
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