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To follow up the presentation I made in class last Tuesday, I’d like to talk a bit about communication in the novel. It’s funny how I will talk to you now through writing on a blog in the interwebs about the communication errors made by a few fictional people in 300 pages.

In my presentation I asked the class to participate in a discussion focusing on communication in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. We talked a lot about the different failed attempts at communication. I focused my presentation on the numbers on page 269 and their translation or lack thereof. I had determined before class that the numbers were there to demonstrate the communication barrier between Thomas Schell and his wife.

We also discussed the sadness of the blank pages on page 121 onwards. Through JGB’s input we grew to understand that there was not a more heartbreaking outlook on the blank pages. Both Thomas thinking he had caused hours of his wife’s life story to be wasted as blank pages and Grandma thinking there was nothing in her life story worth writing down are equally depressing ideas.

Images also tried to convey a message in the novel. The pages at the end of the novel are the photos of the body falling in reverse. The childish innocence of the end of the book in which Oskar wishes the story could play in reverse because then at the end his dad would be with him and everything would be okay is terribly sad. From Oskar’s book of what has happened to him, this is a hopeful and depressing scene surrounding the images.

Another image we spent a lot of time talking about was the image of the renter’s hands. One says “yes” and the other says “no”. We talked about the simplicity of yes and no and how at first Oskar is against this simplification of the world. Oskar’s curiousness makes him wonder what the renter does when he wants to express something other than those two words. We also talked about Thomas and his notebook and how the communication there isn’t always fluid.

Before class was over we talked about other miscommunications in the novel and there are many. Obviously the scenario with the man and all of his I<3NY artwork is a language barrier, but the fact that Oskar’s father never said “I love you” before he died is because Oskar was afraid to communicate on the phone. There are many more situations where communication goes awry in the novel, but I think it’s important to be aware that the story would not be what it is if not for the miscommunications. We would be more satisfied as people if everyone got along great and communicated brilliantly, but as readers we would be bored.

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