Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Analysis

  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is narrated from the point of view of Oskar, a precocious nine-year-old boy who struggles to cope with the tragic loss of his father. The first-person perspective gives readers a window into the aftermath of the September 11th attacks and what it was like to live in New York City at that time.
  • Oskar's first-person narration is occasionally interrupted by letters written by his grandmother and grandfather. These letters, addressed either to Oskar or his father, tell the story of how Oskar's grandmother and grandfather were separated during World War II. Years later, the couple reconnects, but it's unclear if they are able to repair the damage that was done.
  • Much of the novel focuses on Oskar's quest to discover the meaning of the black key. He first finds the key in a vase that belonged to his father. He then goes around the city, searching for the lock his key will open. Along the way, the key becomes a symbol not just of mystery but of Oskar's attempts to cope with tragedy. The quest is ultimately a distraction from the pain of his father's death. 

Analysis

Setting

The novel takes place mostly in New York City, shortly after terrorists destroy the Twin Towers in 2001. However, the time switches from the narrator's present to the late 1940s when his grandparents are newlyweds and even farther back to when they are teenagers in Germany.

In the present time, Oskar lives in an apartment building. Across the street, in another building, is his grandmother. The two of them sometimes communicate with one another through signs in their windows and walkie-talkies.

Oskar roams all over the city, especially in his search for the owner of the key he has discovered in his father's closet. He is only nine years old, but he travels in taxis, knocks on strangers' doors, and visits every borough in New York. Oskar is afraid of riding on the subway because the subway is considered a viable target for another terrorist attack. Oskar is afraid of suffering the same fate as his father.

The other location frequented, through the stories of Oskar's grandparents, is Dresden, Germany. Both grandparents lived in Germany as children. When they were teens, Dresden was severely bombed by the Allied Forces during World War II. Both grandparents lost their entire families. Oskar's grandfather was severely burned. He also lost his pregnant girlfriend, Anna, Oskar's grandmother's older sister. His trauma was intensified when he was forced to kill escaped zoo animals. This lifelong regret explains why he keeps so many animals in his apartment. His other traumas make his refusal to talk about his emotions understandable. He is afraid to love because he is afraid of getting hurt.Save Changes