“Extremely loud & incredibly close”

by Jonathan Safran Foer




The Theme:



The theme of my contribution is  loss. The loss of people that you love or care about and how you come to terms with this loss. Do you try to forget about it or do you become depressive and lose yourself, which means a piece of your personality? Or do you just try to find a replacement for the missing person? There are many different ways to come to terms with a loss and the interesting thing about “Extremely loud & incredibly close” is that actually most of the characters have lost someone and find a personal way to handle this situation.

How can you come to terms with loss? That’s quite a difficult question. And there is no general response to it. Everyone has different and proper ways to deal with  loss. There is no prescription. Oskar for example makes this adventure trip through the five boroughs of New York and meets several people. His mother has a new relationship, which helps her not to think too much about her pain.

What impressed me most about the book was the story of Oskar`s grandfather. He never, not even when he meets his grandson at the end, comes to terms with the loss of the first and most important love of his life. He errs through the world without a plan. At the beginning you have the impression he is probably looking for Anna. But I suppose he actually isn’t just looking for her at all. I believe the reason for his restlessness is that he has lost himself too. That means he has lost a piece of his proper personality. That’s also why he never finds his peace of mind and isn’t able to come to rest and accept what happened. Just looking for Anna, in my opinion does not explain his reaction. But I don’t think that he has lost himself during or after the fire-bombing.  I am sure that this had already happened before. How did he lose himself? That’s a hard question to answer. My idea is that he gave himself up for Anna. I think that there are a lot of people who, when they have a relationship, try to merge with the soul of another person. They start to live in the mind of someone else and give themselves up, without really noticing. When they finally lose their partner there is nothing left but emptiness. I don’t mean that it has to be like that.  I just try to give a possible reason for the behaviour of Oskar`s grandpa.

Also when he married the grandmother he didn’t really look for a replacement for Anna, he was just looking for the feeling of life that he had when he was with her. But he couldn’t find it any more. So he left her again. What surprised me is that he didn’t try to kill himself, although he had a lot of reasons to do that. Perhaps because he was always hoping to find this feeling again?  

At the beginning I thought Oskar`s grandmother didn’t lose herself in contrast to her husband. But now I have changed my mind. I’m quite sure now that she has lost herself too. She indeed goes on with her life, but when you read her letters she seems to be very lonely and confused: lost in the world like the grandfather. This was also the reason why she wanted to marry him, because she shared his destiny. But there is also a decisive difference between them. The grandmother goes on living while the grandfather somehow stands still.


“The meaning of my thoughts started to float away from me, like leaves that fall from a tree into a river, I was the tree the world was the river.” (Page: 16 / line: 21- 23)


“She (the grandmother) was the tree and also the river flowing away from the tree.” (Page: 30 / line: 8- 9)



“‘There are worse things‘, she said, ‘worse than being like us. Look, at least we’re alive‘, I could see that she wanted those last words back, but the current was too strong.”

(Page: 30 / line: 9- 11)


I think these three sentences confirm my theory. This picture with the tree and the river shows in my opinion the difference between the grandfather and the grandmother and the last sentence shows that they have both lost themselves

I think that the loss of someone, whether this person dies or just goes away is always a transition to a new part of your life. Feeling this pain is absolutely necessary although you think that the pain will never go away and that it is so unfair that you have to suffer. It was already clear that you would lose this person before you even met them. We are always alone on this world, the people we meet just stay in our life for a certain time . Their task is it to support us or to show us something, to lead us somewhere etc. But one day they will leave us. So we have to take care of ourselves and try not to lose ourselves in another person because it is inevitable that this other person will go away, and when we give up ourselves we are finally lost. So I think the best way to come to terms with a loss is to remember the good moments with this person and to take care of our dreams and ourselves.