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Diagnosing Oskar

Kasey got me thinking about Oskar and the way he thinks. She, and others agreed, that he has some disturbing and sad thoughts. I found his thoughts to be normal considering his circumstances (father’s death, 9/11, new unknown male in his life), but I definitely do see that they may be absent in a happy child. Behind the Psychiatrist’s door, Oskar hears his mother describe him, “Oskar isn’t other children.  even like being around kids his own age.  a good thing?” (206) Now, Oskar is very intelligent, but the way he distances himself has made me think that he may have Asperger’s syndrome.

Looking at WebMD there are 11 main symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome during childhood. For practical purposes I will focus on 5.

1) Not picking up on social cues – Oskar repeatedly seems to not be able to predict people’s behavior, or understand when something may be inappropriate to say, such as when he asks one of the Black’s to kiss him, or when Jimmy is teasing him. “Jimmy said, I mean your Buckminster.” I didn’t know why he was asking, because I’d brought Buckminster to school for a demonstration only a couple of weeks before…I said, “Buckminster is my pussy.””(189-190) Now, this could be looked at as naivety. Perhaps Oskar hasn’t had much interaction outside of his family due to his shyness and is inexperienced in social interaction, which is much different than Asperger’s.

2) Dislike any changes in routine – Oskar doesn’t appear to be distraught over changes in routine. He drops whatever he was doing before when he finds the key in the vase and begins a new adventure.

3) Appear to lack empathy – Oskar thinks some things that aren’t very empathetic, “”You’re incredibly beautiful,” I told her, because she was fat.”” (44) But who doesn’t think some not-so-nice things every now and then?

4) Have and advanced, formal style of speaking – Although Oskar seems to know a few more random facts than the average 9 year-old, “Like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about.” (1) His speech does not appear to be advanced over someone his age. He very much so has that rambling, story-telling voice of a child of a child who talks and talks.

5) Be preoccupied with only one or a few interests – Oskar does not focus on solely one interest. Yes, he seems very focused on the key, but he also has many other things he likes to study and do. His business card says he is an “Inventor, Jewelry Designer, Jewelry Fabricator, Amateur Entomologist, Francophile,” (99)  among many other things.

After doing this minimal, but nevertheless informative research, I would conclude that Oskar does not display many of the symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome. I think that Oskar is a normal kid who had an extraordinary father who opened Oskar’s mind to the world. Oskar’s father instilled a love of learning in him that keeps Oskar curious and determined throughout the novel. That curiosity and determination are probably a couple of the things that make this book so enjoyable to read, despite the terrible thing that has happened to Oskar.


2 Responses to “Diagnosing Oskar”

  1. gray15 says:

    I am not sure which side of this post I fall on, I agree partially with you and partially with Kasey. As I was reading, there always seemed to be something in the back of my mind that did not seem quite right with regards to how Oskar behaved and interacted with other people. I think it is possible that he has some form of a disability such as Asperger Syndrome; however I do not think that he has that specific disability. Not only is this decision based off of your argument, but also off of some quick research of my own. Oskar does not show many of the classical symptoms for Asperger syndrome such as, the use of formal language, or distress over routine change. He also does not show a lack of empathy. This is shown when he begins using his left and right hands as his grandfather did. If he had lacked empathy, like someone with Asperger’s, then he would not recognize or understand why his grandfather used his hands in such a way. The only symptom that Oskar clearly illustrated was his lack of social skills and his inability to pick up on social cues. But, that is not enough to justify a belief that he has Asperger’s. Oskar is an incredibly gifted child who has just been through a terrible trauma.