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This novel concerns the themes of death, loss, grief and emotional trauma, and so one way in which the various aspects of the novel overlap to produce an excellent work can be seen in the way that the author treats these themes and explores them through the various characters. A minor character who is important in this respect is Mr. A. R. Black, who is one of the people that Oskar looks up to find answers about the key of his father. He is a character who represents an extreme form of withdrawal, as he has shut himself off from the world since his wife's death and has not left his appartment. When Oskar first meets him, he is clearly trapped in a world of grief and loss, symbolised by his own curious ritual of knocking another nail into the bed that he made for his wife:
I've hammered a nail into the bed every morning since she died! It's the first thing I do after waking! Eight thousand six hundred twenty-nine nails!
Through his friendship with Oskar, however, Mr. Black finally becomes freed from this curious self-internment and becomes a functioning member of society once more. This experience is mirrored by other characters too, but most importantly perhaps in Oskar himself, who, in the flip-book he fashions at the end of the novel, finally manages to break out of his grief and to move on to accept the terrible loss that has marked his young life. What makes this novel so impressive is the way that it offers an incredibly realistic account of grief and loss in its multiple forms, but then goes on to give us hope of a new start and of acceptance.
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