ELIC Part 2

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Trauma: Creation (and its underlying tones of destruction and preservation)

  • Almost the entirety of Foer’s novel acts as an exploration and analysis of the aftermath of trauma. We’re repeatedly told of the “hole” that’s left after a scarring experience. Oskar, his grandmother, and his grandfather all try to cope with the dead that haunt them. Point of interest: how creation is used as a coping mechanism, and how it ultimately works in tandem with preservation and destruction. We’ve discussed the role of art in other books (Age of Innocence, Humboldt’s Gift, The Garcia Girls)—how does this compare and contrast?
  • Creation (and preservation and destruction)
    • Writing
      • The grandfather encourages the grandmother to start writing (119, 120), but she ultimately produces blank pages (at least at first) because she felt her “life story was spaces” (176)
        • On the following page, the grandmother concludes that the hole in her will be filled with a different type of creation: a child
      • The grandfather’s own writing (letters to his child that never reach him) are an attempt to preserve the link between them
      • What about Oskar’s letters? They are such a prominent motif in the novel, but they technically stand independent of the plot. Hawking’s first response is met by Oskar with “There’s something incredibly wonderful that I want to preserve” (12). Besides Oskar’s first letter to Hawking (11), we never see a letter from Oskar, only the responses to them (197, 199, 200, 242, 304)
    • Sculpture
      • Form of creation that is ultimately just a preservation of Anna (83, 84) reflects the grandfather’s deeper dependency on preserving the image of those who left him in the grandmother (281)
    • Sixth Borough
      • First introduced on p. 13 but the full story is not disclosed until p. 217
      • Referenced as a place Oskar would like to escape to (144) à as the final deliberate act of creation that his father left him, what does the story of the Sixth Borough represent to both Oskar and the grand scheme of the novel?
    • Inventions
      • Oskar’s imaginations often turn violent and destructive à beating Jimmy Snyder in Hamlet (146), what happened to his grandmother when he can’t find her (235), his own death atop the Empire State building (244)
      • “I need to know how he died…So I can stop inventing how he died. I’m always inventing” (256)
    • The Key
      • The plot arc of the key operates as a nested epic tale inside Foer’s novel; like how the epic poems of Ancient Greece told of homecoming, Oskar’s journey was supposed to result in a reunion of sorts, or at least a cathartic, final interaction with his father. In essence, it was an effort to preserve his father, but after a certain point Oskar “no longer felt like [he] was moving in the direction of Dad” (287). Finally finding the lock shatters this preservation of his father (302) as Oskar comes to grips with the fact that he will never be able to maintain this type of closeness with his father.
    • The (un)Burial
      • 258 à the thought of digging up the empty coffin arises amongst thoughts of inventions
      • 321 à war-planning; comparison between Mr. Black’s final war of cutting down a tree and this (final?) war of digging up a coffin
      • What type of invention is this? Does it operate as creation, preservation, or destruction?
    • Sort of tangential (but important to the novel as a whole): doorknobs! Thomas Schell’s preservation of them through photographs speaks to the memory seared into his mind and on his hands (211)

Codes: Miscommunication/Missed Connections/Deception

  • We’ve read so many books where codes are used both deliberately and subconsciously, with mixed results. The same trend can be observed here, with an added layer of intentional deception that further muddies the miscommunication that occurs.
  • The grandfather lies to the grandmother about her writing (124) even though the grandmother knowingly just pressed the space bar (176). The grandparents are constantly speaking in code (108, 111, 135) with mixed results (178, 306)
  • Oskar fixates on the lies he has to tell, especially to his mother about his quest, but his mother knows about it (291)

Suspension of Disbelief/Opinions on Narration (much more about class discussion)

  • Foer accomplishes a lot, but also asks a lot of the reader. The contentious Child Narrator is always divisive. Does Foer succeed in giving us a believable, sympathetic narrator? Does Oskar’s precocity become too unbelievable? Is that what Foer wants (is he reaching for a subtle magical realism?)?
  • What does the Child Narrator facilitate? Why did Foer pick a character like Oskar to be our eyes and ears? How does he contrast to the parts told from the point of view of the grandmother and grandfather? How does the time jumps and non-linear style of storytelling play into this?

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