Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Protection Through Language Barriers in 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' College

Instances of failed communication occur extensively in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In some cases — Oskar and his mother, William Black and his father — increased communication would improve the way characters deal with trauma and loss. However, much of the time, limited communication between characters actually acts as a safety measure against undesirable knowledge. One example of this occurs partway through Oskar’s journey, when Oskar finds himself unable to communicate with the Spanish-speaking woman, Feliz, in Agnes Black’s old apartment. He grasps that Agnes died during 9/11, but his inability to understand Spanish protects him from the answer to “‘Did [Agnes] have any kids?’” (Foer 196). Feliz’s long response suggests that Agnes probably did have children, but because of the language barrier, Oskar escapes the damaging idea of another parent-less child. Oskar’s interaction with Feliz illuminates Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’s central idea that language barriers protect people from unnecessary and harmful knowledge.

Oskar has positive associations with Greek simply because of its nature as a foreign language. He and his dad listen to someone speak Greek on the radio, “which was nice”...

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