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Parenting in Context to English Literature: Jonathan Safran Foers Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - Research Paper Example

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Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells the story of Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old boy who is attempting to deal with the recent loss of his father, Thomas Schell. For an entire year after his father’s death, Oskar couldn’t bear going into his father’s room because it was too painful. …
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Parenting in Context to English Literature: Jonathan Safran Foers Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
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Download file to see previous pages Finally, since he already had “heavy boots” (Oskar’s euphemism for misfortune and broken heartedness), Oskar made the trek into his father’s room so he could retrieve a camera. Clumsiness prevails and Oskar knocks over a vase, but in so doing uncovers a hidden key in an envelope labeled “Black.” It is this key and the search for its lock that the novel is focused on, and these two things take on unforeseen significance as the story unfolds.
Layered beneath the story of Oskar’s present tense experiences is the story of Oskar’s relationship with his father, who was in the World Trade Center on September 11th. Oskar and his dad had a very close relationship, and it is clear that he and his mother do not enjoy the same closeness. Although his father is absent, he nonetheless remains the primary relationship for Oskar. Oskar continues to focus only on his father even while his mother is still there for him, at least physically. When his grandfather suddenly materializes out of nowhere, Oskar engages him in a relationship, too. Oskar’s grandmother is present for him and represents another active and engaged adult figure in his life. Indeed, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close provides several unique opportunities for examining the unique parenting styles exhibited by the various adults in Oskar’s life.
Oskar’s intense connection to his father no doubt has to do with his having Asperger’s Syndrome and the unique way his father was able to engage with him. Asperger’s syndrome involves a collection of very unique symptoms, including “a distinctive way of thinking and acting” (Cohler and Weiner 208). This manifests through language, preoccupations, and clumsiness among other things (Cohler and Weiner). As is true for Oskar, a significant number of individuals that have Asperger’s are highly intelligent (Cohler and Weiner). They also struggle with social situations and propriety, and exhibit behavior that others find bizarre (Mayo). Though the novel doesn’t revolve around Oskar’s diagnosis, it is definitely an evident and relevant feature of the story. Oskar’s behavior supplies a bevy of evidence in support of the idea that he has Asperger’s Syndrome, including his method for cursing without actually cursing (“succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake”) (Foer 5). His preoccupations are interests that he remains focused on, and it seems his father discovered a way to normalize this for him by devising the Reconnaissance Expeditions that were so important to Oskar. Oskar’s speech and way of asking questions stands out from the other figures in his life, and his methods for coping with the things that are happening around him also seem strange in comparison. If Oskar wasn’t so clumsy, he never would have knocked down the vase containing the mysterious key. Another aspect of Oskar’s behavior that further reveals his Asperger’s –like tendencies is his need to attribute a cause for everything that happens. He cannot accept that things happen for no reason or that they can’t be explained through logic, or that the system of thought organization he’d been relying on for so long could be incapable of dealing with this new ambiguity. The fact that Oskar has Asperger’s and that his father managed to find a way to relate to and bond with a child having such a difficult diagnosis makes this novel an interesting starting point for a discussion of the relationship of parenting styles and Asperger’s syndrome. Thomas is probably best described as an authoritative parent, and there are many passages in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close that can be viewed as evidence of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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