Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis: What The?

The story opens with a series of thoughts. The narrator wonders about sounds and thoughts and whether it would be possible for a teakettle to have a voice. He also questions whether birdseed shirts would allow people to fly since humans have no wings.

Readers learn that the narrator has recently started jujitsu because his mother thought it would be good for him "to have a physical activity besides tambourining" and because he was curious about self-defense.

In the same breath that we learn he can play "The Flight of the Bumblebee" on the tambourine and that this is the ring tone on his cell phone, the narrator informs readers that his father has died, almost as an afterthought. Readers also learn that he wears only white clothing, has ridden in a limousine twice, that he knows the meaning of the French term raison d'etre, and that his favorite documentary is A Brief History of Time.

The narrator finally reveals his name, almost as if by accident, and readers learn that "a few weeks after the worst day, [Oskar] started writing lots of letters" because, he explains, "it was one of the only things that made [his] boots lighter." The first letter Oskar penned was to Stephen Hawking asking if he could be Hawking's protege. Oskar is thrilled to receive a response, albeit an impersonal form letter.

When Oskar's father tucks him into bed on "the night before the worst day," they have a brief discussion of physics and his father tells him a bedtime story about a sixth borough of New York. This is Oskar's final exchange with his father; the next time Oskar hears his voice, it will be the next day on the answering machine. Oskar's father leaves five messages, one at 8:52 a.m., 9:12 a.m., 9:31 a.m., 9:46 a.m., and 10:04 a.m.

Upon meeting Oskar Schell, readers will sense almost immediately that he is, indeed, a most precocious...

(The entire section is 625 words.)