Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

October 1, 2009
By ChaseMangham BRONZE, Dallas, Texas
ChaseMangham BRONZE, Dallas, Texas
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One of the most trying times our nation has endured in recent memory is the catastrophe that occurred on September 11th, 2001, when terrorists hijacked planes and flew them into the Twin Towers in downtown New York. This tragedy is the basis for Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel: Extremely Loud &
Incredibly Close. The setting hits very close to home with its reader as the novel follows the life of a 9 year old boy whose father died in the towers.
Foer’s novel is far from a sob story; however, as page by page he explores the complicated emotions and ultimately the need for closure that all humans share in a time of crisis.
Jonathan Foer, author of 2002’s Everything is Illuminated and winner of the
Zoetrope All-Fiction award, does an absolutely stunning job with the brilliantly realized lead character of Oskar Schell, an emotionally broken and off center 9 year old whose life was inexplicable thrown into a blender in the aftermath of 9/11. Foer uses fantastically creative syntax and graphics to convey a meaning to the reader that cannot truly be described in words, and the audience is granted with a deeper understanding of Oskar.
Sometimes Foer simply puts one word or one sentence onto a page which truthfully is a stroke of genius as it offers the reader a wonderful break in the monotony of reading normally written pages and conveys a meaning that sometimes many words cannot achieve. Foer’s foray into the soul with these greatly imagined and realized characters, makes some of the most convincing and believable personalities that offer a view into our own lives. The painfully familiar setting just tops off Foer’s great post-modern masterpiece that is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Foer’s greatest achievement in the novel was by far his great characters, and especially Oskar Schell, the narrator. The reader slowly but surely is presenting with fascinatingly subtle details about Oskar’s deteriorated emotional state caused by the death of his father. His erratic and often scattered thoughts are most akin to J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye as one thought frantically leads from one tangent to another, leading to thoughts and conclusions no ordinary person would come to. Page by page, word by word, Foer’s masterfully crafted writing slowly gives the reader the distinct feeling that something is terribly wrong with Oskar, and it soon becomes apparent that his journey for the lock his father’s key belonged to is nothing more than a child’s attempt to come to grips with the horrible concept of his father’s death. .As his crazy journey comes to a close
Oskar is finally able to grasp that “there’s nothing wrong with not understanding yourself” (Foer 287) and your emotions.
Through ups and downs, twists and turns, Foer’s master-crafted novel delivers punch after punch of startlingly realized characters in a setting that will melt the heart of even the iciest reader. While some characters are a tad odd or abrasive, in the end it only adds to their overall charm – making them even more realistic. At its roots, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a story about moving on, putting the past behind us, and coping with great loss. It shows through its quirky and random narrator, its eccentric and often far-fetched pictures, and deep down, a connection with every American who lived through the tragedy of 9/11. With a little hope, Foer’s novel will make us all a little more like Oskar, just needing to find our “raison d'être” – the lost lock to our own black key.

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