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The Anti-War Novel

I think Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is an anti-war novel, subtly. Oskar doesn’t talk that much about the war or terrorists throughout the novel, but I think Foer argues against the novel by describing the horror and people’s reactions to it. One of the more prominent ones is when Oskar’s grandfather is in the bombing of Dresden.

“…we heard a horrible noise, rapid, approaching explosions, like an applauding audience running toward us, then they were atop us, we were thrown to the corners, our cellar filled with fire and smok, more powerful explosions, the walls lifted from the floor and separated just long enough to let light flood in before banging back to the ground, orange and blue explosions, violet and white.” (210)

This scene really puts you where Oskar’s grandfather is at the moment and makes you experience the event as it is happening.The grandfather loses his fiancee in the bombing. He then moves onto her sister, but never is sure if he truly loves her her, or just sees her sister in Oskar’s grandmother. The bombing tears his life apart and he never fully recuperates from it.

Oskar plays an interview for his class with a Hiroshima victim.

“I saw a young girl coming toward me. Her skin was melting down her. It was like wax. She was muttering,’Mother. Water. Mother. Water.'” (187)

This scene really paints the horror of the nuclear bomb dropping at Hiroshima. The fact that Oskar chooses this interview to share with his class shows his fascination with the event, especially when he explains technical details afterwards. The last line of the interview is particularly haunting: “I thought if everyone could see what I saw, we would never have war anymore” (189). I think this line really reflects one of Foer’s purposes in writing this novel . He shows the effect that 9/11 has on Oskar’s life, the effect that the bombing of Dresden has on Oskar’s grandparents, and the effect that Hiroshima has on this father. By showing the emotional repercussions, Foer is saying war is wrong because it can rip apart lives.

2 Responses to “The Anti-War Novel”

  1. […] I seem to recall referring to Slaughterhouse-Five‘s Billy Pilgrim as “a drip.” I should probably clarify that. To me, it never seemed that Billy has much interest or investment in the war he’s supposedly fighting. This effect is obviously enhanced by the fact that Billy Pilgrim is ‘unstuck in time’ (being presumably aware of the fifth dimension of string theory), and spends just as much time on Tralfamadore with his pornstar girlfriend as he does “[shitting] thin gruel” in a freezing boxcar. The question, I suppose, is the degree to which a novel can be considered “anti-war” when its protagonist does not seem to be particularly concerned with war at all. For me, the descriptions of the Dresden firebombing in both this novel and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and that of the Hiroshima bombing in the latter are convincing enough, regardless of how Billy Pilgrim and Oskar Schell feel about the events. But this is certainly up for debate, as it has been since even before D.J. gave her oral report. […]

  2. […] I seem to recall referring to Slaughterhouse-Five‘s Billy Pilgrim as “a drip.” I should probably clarify that. To me, it never seemed that Billy has much interest or investment in the war he’s supposedly fighting. This effect is obviously enhanced by the fact that Billy Pilgrim is ‘unstuck in time’ (being presumably aware of the fifth dimension of string theory), and spends just as much time on Tralfamadore with his pornstar girlfriend as he does “[shitting] thin gruel” in a freezing boxcar. The question, I suppose, is the degree to which a novel can be considered “anti-war” when its protagonist does not seem to be particularly concerned with war at all. For me, the descriptions of the Dresden firebombing in both this novel and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and that of the Hiroshima bombing in the latter are convincing enough, regardless of how Billy Pilgrim and Oskar Schell feel about the events. But this is certainly up for debate, as it has been since even before D.J. gave her oral report. […]