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The other day, we spoke about the fairy tale aspect Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It is trying to inject some kind of moving beauty into a tragic event such as 9/11.

In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer uses the pattern of the quest, which is an adventurous journey undergone by the hero of a story. Oskar Schell, the nine-year-old protagonist, meets with helpers and overcomes a series of obstacles, returning in the end with the benefits of knowledge and experience. This model has been used since Medieval Literature and later on, especially in fairy tales and “coming-of-age’’ novels. As we also mentioned the other day, fairy tales are a tool to understand the human mind and a way to navigate the reality. Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis and discoverer of the unconscious, recognized the value of fairy tales as a way to analyze the mystery of the human psyche.

The Surrealists also considered the unconscious mind and dreams as the best channels to an understanding of human reality. In this context the use of fairy tales and the surrealist influence is a way for the author to understand reality when the rational explanations are failing. The surrealist movement appeared after the catastrophe of WWI and was strong during WWII, which were both examples of the failure of the rational idea of progress and modernity. So it is not surprising that Jonathan Safran Foer has chosen a non-realistic approach to 9/11, especially when he makes it echo with the events of WWII and Hiroshima.

The epic quest of the child is also the metaphor for the overcoming of grief. Indeed, by looking for the key trough New-York City, Oskar is able to orient himself towards a goal, his mind is kept functional, he makes new friends, and he eventually finds a way forward. Thanks to his mission, Oskar is able to stay in the word of the living, unlike his grand- father who lived as a dead man after the death of Anna.

Thus Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is an artistic attempt to bring some hope after a tragedy and an affirmation of life against death.

One Response to “Extremely Loud Incredibly Close: a therapeutic novel?”

  1. Charlotte: Thank you for this insightful discussion of the various ways that fairy tales, myths, and the unconscious are put to work in this novel.