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As with most mystery fiction, there are actually three separate timelines in Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, one ontological and two epistemological. On the ontological level, there is a chronology of external events. Epistemologically, there are two separate types of timelines, that of the order in which characters and the narrator discover information, and that in which the reader discovers information. The tension between these different orders of time and knowledge is what causes suspense; the plot resolution occurs when all three timelines join together, typically as the last event in the book, where readers and characters enjoy full disclosure, as it were.
The major events of the book in chronological order are:
Earliest letters, addressed to grandmother.
Oskar's grandfather and Anna fall in love. Anna gets pregnant, but is killed in the bombing of Dresden near the end of World War II, in February 1945.
Oskar's paternal grandfather marries Anna's sister, Oskar's grandmother.
Oskar's grandfather, who no longer speaks, writes a letter in 1963.
Oskar's father tucks Oskar into bed on 10 September 2001.
Oskar's father leaves phone messages and then dies in attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
The empty coffin buried.
Oskar starts writing letters to famous intellectuals.
Oskar explores his father's belongings and finds the key labeled Black. He starts searching for people named Black. Various narratives about Blacks are related.
Oskar and his grandfather dig up the coffin and rebury it with mementos.
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