What methods does Foer use in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to convey the trauma of war? What narrative techniques does he use to represent traumatic events (arising from WWII and 9/11) and traumatic pathologies they might result in?
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This novel unites two terrible and terrifying experiences together: 9/11 and the firebombing of Dresden. Foer does this to show the impact of emotional trauma and how humans cope, or rather how they don't cope very well, with loss and such terrible events. The main way in which Foer presents the impact of traumatic events is through the presentation of the various characters in this novel and how they live their lives in response to the traumatic events they have experienced. Consider the tragic character of Oskar's grandfather, who is the character who perhaps copes least well with his emotional trauma of having lost his lover, Anna, in the firebombing of Dresden. He is a man who is so torn up by his loss that he refuses to speak, choosing to only communicate with the world around him through a notepad and the two tatoos of "yes" and "no" on either hand. He is a man who has in many ways bowed out of life, refusing to connect and attach himself to those around him, even though ironically he finds that in spite of his desire to remain separate and isolated, he constantly finds himself re-establishing the bridges he has tried to destroy. Note how he writes letters to the son he has never met and then returns to his wife, Anna's sister, but as an anonymous renter. He even goes as far as spending time with his grandson, Oskar, forging a relationship with him, but never would reveal his true identity as the boy's grandfather. The man is characterised by his division between participating in the world and forming relationships and then refusing to participate in the world. His life is defined above all else by his love for Anna and the way in which he seemingly cannot love anything else. Note what he writes in one of his letters to his son:
It's the tragedy of loving, you can't love anything more than something you miss.
Because of his all-consuming love for Anna, Oskar's grandfather shows his inability to cope with trauma and loss through his inability to live in a meaningful way, in relation with those around him. This sense is also conveyed in the narrative he contributes, which is variously fractured, disjointed and also circled in red, as if it is being edited and viewed as an impersonal narrative. Such techniques are used by Foer to convey the massive loss as experienced by Oskar's grandfather and its impact on his life.
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