Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close: The Journey Of Human Grief
Loss of life and the grief that follows it are huge parts of Oskar Schell’s life in the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Even as a nine-year-old, Oskar has had to mature die to his dads death on 9/11. He was forced to grow up quickly to be “the man of the house” and take care of his mom and family. Although obviously intelligent and witty, he still does have a good “kid-side”, featuring his curious and eager qualities. For example, after finding a key, Oskar opens up to the possibility of discovering more about his dad and even how he died, hoping it will leave him with some closure and healing. I think many of the feelings of guilt that trauma produces become resolved indirectly through the book, rather than directly. Oskar does not get to say a proper goodbye to his Dad (because he didn’t pick up the phone but still listens to the messages). But later the key strides to provide closure for him, as well as William Black, who has been attempting to process his own father’s death, and they both learn how to cope and move on together. This is also seen through Oskar’s mom and her new love interest, as they met in a coping group for trauma and therefore have helped each other gain strength from tough situations. These all have helped build a community and create a way to deal with trauma and guilt in many peoples lives.
Besides Oskar’s narrative, the novel features chapters written by his Grandpa and Grandma and their own struggles with loss and trauma. First, Oskar’s Grandpa is tremendously affected by trauma and guilt, specifically after the Dresden firebombing. When his pregnant wife, Anna, died in the bombing, he began to have such tremendous survivor’s guilt that he eventually becomes unable to speak. Although Grandpa doesn’t speak out loud, he still communicates through his YES and NO tattoos on his hands, and then also writes notes when he needs to say something more. Later in his narrative, Grandpa says he married Anna’s sister (Oskar’s Grandma) after the war, but when Grandma became pregnant with Oskar’s Dad, Grandpa left her, adding yet another layer to his feelings of guilt. Grandpa writes long letters to his son, even though he never mails them, leaving him with guilt and lots to think about. Grandpa does not get to reconnect with his son, but he connects with family when he moves in with Grandma (also leaving some indirect resolution). His narrative gets to the core of Grandpas life events, leaving the reader an opportunity to guessing how he will deal with the ongoing trauma and grief of these experiences.
Besides Grandpa, Grandma is another narrator in the novel, and she wants the reader to know all about her feelings, possibly a reason her letters and narration are titled “My Feelings’. The long letters seem to be Grandma writing to Oskar after she’s decided to reunite with her husband. Her husband, has not been there for her and would make this decision quite controversial. Similar to this is when she allows the “renter” (Grandpa) to live with her, possibly to keep him in her life to avoid the past trauma he has ensued and her guilt from keeping Oskar from him. Grandma does not let grandpa see Oskar, another way Grandma is very secretive and closed-off. She keeps a lot of her life a secret, even Oskar doesn’t really know his Grandma although he spends most of his time with her. Privacy and closing off from others is the way Grandma defends against trauma, trying to allow herself to move on and avoid guilt, although that is not always the end result.
After reading and thinking about the connections in this book between people, their grief, and then their journeys for closure, it’s obvious big factors are communities, communication, and love. The audience can see that each character has their own way of dealing with painful situations, and that can be harmful to relationships and possibly result in more guilt, until they all try to deal with it together. All the narratives in this novel expertly compile together to tie the story and its themes of trauma and guilt together to create a bigger recovery effort.
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Loss of life and the grief that follows it are huge parts of Oskar Schell’s life in the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Even as […]