In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer explores trauma and its impact on people. When faced with a devastating situation, it is only human nature to search for answers in everything. For the characters of Oskar and his grandfather, it is clear that the guilt and sadness alters their everyday lives, which they spend searching for answers. On the other hand, even though she is mourning the loss of her husband, Oskar’s mother is able to show incredible outward stability as she heals by helping her son on his journey. Through these characters and more, all dealing with similar devastating situations, Foer argues that the only way to unlock true healing from grief is to accept that sometimes there is no answer.
Oskar Schell is a very unique, quirky and conflicted 9 year old Manhattan boy, who loses his father in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Understandably, this changes his life and purpose forever. Is is struck with so many new questions, about his own life and his father’s death. He is forced to lose his innocence at such an early age, and becomes jaded, even stating that “Nothing is beautiful and true” (43).
Oskar had a very special relationship with his father, who challenged him intellectually and often led him on extraordinary “Reconnaissance Expeditions.” A year following his father’s death, Oskar finds a key in a vase labelled “Black,” and treats it as one of these expeditions, becoming obsessed with searching for any information that can help him cling to the memory of his father. There are “472 people with the name Black in New York” (51), and Oskar spends every possible moment knocking on their doors to ask if they knew anything about the key, and what information about his father it could unlock. Though the vast majority of his attempts failed to bring him any answers, Oskar had some peace of mind while he was searching, because “every time [he] left [the] apartment…[he] was getting closer to [his] dad” (52).
Oskar’s father used to tell him stories about a fictional Sixth Borough of New York, and one instance is brought up later in the novel to really tie into the theme. Oskar’s father tells him that “there’s nothing that could convince someone who doesn’t want to be convinced. But there is an abundance of clues that would give the wanting believer something to hold on to” (221). At the time, he is talking about the existence of a nonexistent place, but now this reflects how Oskar is holding on the clues, believing that there is a way that the impossible will lead him to his father. It is the epitome of Oskar’s struggle to be ok with feeling sad without having the objective answers as to why or how the tragedy happened. He would even go to such extremes as digging up his father’s empty coffin, just to fill it with something that would properly represent his father more so than an empty box.
Through Oskar searching for meaning in the loss of his father, he eventually is able to begin to accept that it was never...