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As discussed in class last week, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer  is a very fun light read about September 11th compared to other books on the topic. The main character, Oskar Schell, is certainly very entertaining for his age. However, I think that entertainment is also very sickening in a way. Therefore, with this post I am going to write down some of the quotes from the book that explain why I think it was so disturbing.

1) “There was a lot of stuff that made me panicky, like suspension bridges, germs, airplanes, fireworks, Arab people on the subway (even though I’m not racist), Arab people in restaurants and coffee shops and other public places, scaffolding, sewers, and subway grates, bags without owners, shoes, people with mustaches, smoke, knots, tall building, turbans” (36).

2) “I was so mad at myself for not noticing it before that I gave myself a little bruise” (41).

3) “‘You’re incredibly beautiful,’ I told her, because she was fat, so I thought it would be an especially nice compliment, and also make her like me again, even though I was sexist” (44).

4) “My other rules were that I wouldn’t be sexist again, or discriminatory to handicapped people or mental retards, and also that I wouldn’t lie unless I absolutely had to, which I did a lot” (87).

5) “I put together a special field kit with some things I was going to need, like … iodine pills in case of a dirty bomb” (87).

6) ” ‘ I can’t go up.’ Why not?’ ‘Because you’re on the ninth floor and I don’t go that high.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘It isn’t safe.’ ‘But it’s perfectly safe here.’ ‘Until something happens.’ ‘You’ll be fine.’ ‘It’s a rule.’ ” (90).

7) The Hamlet scene between him and Jimmy Snyder (145-146).

8 ) ” ‘So where to?’ he asked. ‘The Bronz,’ I said. ‘The IRT?’ ‘The what?’ ‘The IRT train.’ ‘There isn’t an IRT train, and I don’t take public transportation.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘It’s an obvious target.’ (194).

9) “In addition to the fact that it was an obvious potential target, there had also been a ferry accident pretty recently, and in Stuff That Happened to Me I had pictures of people who had lost their arms and legs. Also, I don’t like bodies of water. Or boats, particularly” (240).

So basically, I feel like Oskar was too paranoid. He knew too much about life. I feel like 9/11 and the loss of his father caused him to grow up far too fast. The only reason this book is ‘fun’ is because a child narrator adds certain entertainment throughout the story. For the most part, Oskar Schell is a very sad little boy… However, as sad as it is; it was pure brilliance on Safran Foer’s part. September 11th was not something to be celebrated, it was not beautiful and there were many consequences. One of the consequences that this book focuses on, is the fact that many children were left parent-less after that fateful day. Although many children lose their parent’s unexpectedly on a daily basis, for some reason the way this happened made it even more tragic. This book is about much more than the child perspective, because I was a child when 9/11 happened and I certainly was not effected like this. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close really allows the reader to see exactly how devastating this event was to a child who lost a parent in the attacks.  If this book were as fun as others are expressing it to be, it would not have nearly as powerful a statement as it does now.


Another expansion:

So after another night of thinking about this topic, I decided to add a little bit about the other child’s view that we have been exposed to: Justin’s from The Falling Man. I just wanted to clarify why exactly Oskar’s life seems more disturbing to me than Justin’s. First of all, they are both paranoid about the attacks. However, Justin’s takes the form of a game: he and the twins are looking for the next attack. Also, Justin did not lose anyone in the attack. In fact, it seems that his family life was already pretty screwed up. Other than his game, life is basically moving along relatively normal for him. However, Oskar lost his father in the attacks. From what we learn about his family life prior to the attacks it seemed to be very put-together, which causes the loss of his father to be even more traumatic. I believe, had Safra Foer created a child like Justin, readers would get the impression that losing a parent in the attacks did not harm the mental state of the child, when it obviously did.

4 Responses to “Beneath the ‘Fun’ of it all”

  1. gray15 says:

    I did not find this book as disturbing as you did, nor do I think that all of these quotes are particularly disturbing. Instead I think that they highlight how truly scared he was and how that manifested into an unhealthy paranoia. I agree with your selection of quote #2, whenever someone injures themself it is disturbing. I also agree with quote #5, however again I think it he was paranoid more than anything, and due to that he was just trying to protect himself. Also for me quote #6 was disturbing just due to how scared Oskar was. I agree with you that Oskar seems paranoid; however it is not as disturbing to me due to the events that Oskar has witnessed.

    • stewart15 says:

      I agree totally which the fact that they are not nearly as disturbing in context of the events that he has witnessed. I added to my post to explain that, sort of. I still feel like all the quotes I posted are extremely disturbing, but I feel like it was a tactic on the authors part to show how much 9/11 effected him. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Kasey: I’m having a bit of trouble figuring our the purpose of your post. Are you suggesting that the novel is (or isn’t) flawed because Oskar is an engaging, precocious child who is also emotionally scarred as a result of the 9/11 attacks and the loss of his father? Are you suggesting that this isn’t (or is?) an effective way to convey the psychological and emotional toll of 9/11? Perhaps you could expand or revise this post to more fully assert your purpose.

    • stewart15 says:

      I expanded on my post a little. I hope it clears up the confusion. Thanks for the help!