How is Oskar's journey in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close heroic?
If you apply a few common hero-related adjectives to Oskar, it becomes obvious that Oskar fits a stereotypical definition of a hero. I will pick: determined, brave, and smart.
Oskar finds a key and the Name/word "Black" in a vase in his deceased father's closet, and immediately starts what seems to be an impossible search. He starts by considering all the possible meanings of black, and then decides it must a last name, so he goes about visiting all the boroughs of New York visiting seeming random people by the last name of Black. It seems like such a "needle in the haystack" way to search, but he is strong and even a bit devious in his efforts to find the lock that matches the key. He certainly shows an almost single-minded determination.
Most children won't cross the street without a parent's hand, yet Oskar is traveling to stranger's homes and interacting with many strangers in his quest. He can't afford to be shy or he will never get the answers he needs. He must face his fears in order to accomplish his goals.
Oskar is clearly a gifted child who has a more philosophical interpretation of the world than most adults. He is also very self-aware. One of the saddest and most endearing observations he makes is about how things in life give him "heavy boots." He seems to have an innate understanding of himself. He is also interested in the world of adults, writing letters to famous scientists and others and forming relationships with seemingly random people such as the limo driver from his father's funeral. He seems wise well beyond his years.
These three qualities and many others make Oskar one of the most heroic nine year olds in literature.
Oskar, the main character from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, can easily be seen as a hero on a journey. He is a bit of an underdog, and he doesn't fit into the mold of what a typical 9-year-old boy might be, which only further establishes his heroic plight in the novel. Oskar is on a mission to find the lock that the key he found, which he assumes belonged to his father, will open. The metaphor is not too subtle, and Oskar does unlock something within himself along the way. The search for the literal lock proves a bit anti-climactic, leaving the reader focused on this young hero. After all, his journey required bravery, physical endurance, a little bit of fortune, and even the help a few trusty sidekicks along the way. There is little room to doubt the heroism of Oskar's journey.