Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Each narrator has survived, in some way or another, a terrorist attack. How are their experiences similar? How are they different?


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One of the most enduring themes in the novel, death overshadows the motivations and emotional wellbeing of all of the main characters, especially Oskar as he struggles with his father’s passing. Death is both personal and abstract in this book. Thomas Sr.'s experiences during the Dresden bombing acquaint him with the fear and truth of death as his city and family are destroyed. The many deaths which occur that day haunt him, and affect his inability to be close to others later in life. Oskar grapples with a similar potential. The imagery of the man falling from the World Trade Center both frightens and obsesses Oskar, and serves as the center of other death photographs he collects. Ultimately, the novel's dramatic tension largely revolves around whether Oskar can make his peace with the unfair, illogical nature of death so that he can then move forward and escape a cold, tortured existence like that which Grandpa (and to a lesser extent, Grandma) lives. Death and its companion, grief, become the primary obstacle which each of the characters tries to overcome.