Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis: Why I'm Not Where You Are (5/21/63)

Jonathan Safran Foer

Chapter 2 Summary and Analysis: Why I'm Not Where You Are (5/21/63)

This chapter begins with a letter to someone's unborn child, dated 1963. The letter explains that the writer was not always silent. It seems that sometime after he came to America, he opted to stop speaking. The letter's author had "yes" tattooed on his left hand and "no" tattooed on his right; he explains that while "it hasn't made life wonderful, it's made life possible." The last spoken word he uttered was "I."

He started to take blank notebooks with him everywhere he went to facilitate communication. At night, he would reread his life. Each sentence had its own page so he often ran out of books by day's end. Readers learn that he went through so many books that he began to use them as doorstops, birdcage liners, and coasters.

The letter's author informs its recipient that he was "already out of words when I met your mother." He attributes the success of their marriage to the fact that she never really had to know him since he never spoke. These two people who lost everything somehow found each other in New York City and completed one another.

The content of this chapter is perplexing. Readers do not know who the author of the letter is nor to whom it is directed, but he does reveal that his name is Thomas. Readers can surmise that the author is somehow related to Oskar and has an equally complex outlook on life, but the connection remains a mystery.

The reader is left with countless questions at the end of this chapter. Perhaps most vexing is the question of what trauma the letter's writer suffered that made him choose to stop speaking. Thomas informs readers that "I've thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it." Thomas confesses that he wishes that he could "pull the thread, unravel the scarf of [his] silence and start again from the beginning."

The pain Thomas feels is almost palpable. Readers can...

(The entire section is 620 words.)