Extremely Oskar’s grandfather explain his experiences during

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a novel written by Jonathan Safran Foer published
in 2005. The novel is written in first-person narration, however there are
three different first-person narrators. The book starts off with the narration
of Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old boy who lives in New York. Oskar’s father,
Thomas Schell died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in
September 2001. After his father’s death, Oskar struggles with depression and
often describes it as wearing “heavy boots” and deals with it by giving himself
bruises. Oskar finds a key in his father’s closet and becomes determined to
find the lock that fits the key. Meanwhile the reader follows the story of
Oskar’s mission to find the lock, the reader finds letters weaved between
Oskar’s narration. These letters are written to Oskar (by his grandmother) and
to Thomas (by his father, also Oskar’s grandfather). In the letters from
Oskar’s grandmother, she explains how important Oskar is to her, her past when
she met his grandfather and their relationship problems. The letters from
Oskar’s grandfather explain his experiences during World War 2, his first love
Anna, and his relationship with Oskar’s grandmother. Hence three first-person
narrators; Oskar himself, Oskar’s grandmother and Oskar’s grandfather, thus
Foer’s use of multimodality. Furthermore, Foer is also multimodal in his story
when he weaves in pictures from Oskar’s book, “Stuff That Happened to Me”.


Novels traditionally rely on mono-modality,
in which case Foer deviates from this and makes use of multimodality.
Mono-modality utilises one narrator to tell the story from one point of view
throughout the novel. Extremely Loud
& Incredibly Close however, uses multiple narrators to illustrate the
novel’s storyline from various characters at the same time. Furthermore, Foer
makes use of images to convey the story to the reader and this allows for a
more complex and non-singular point of view.

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Oskar is the dominant narrator in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and
is recognised for his chapters “What the?” and “Googolplex”. Oskar’s chapters
are characterised by his fast pace thinking and clustered dialogue. The
dialogue in the chapters is clustered together with complete disregard for the
tradition of starting a new line when there is speech. In this sense Foer
deviates from what is the ‘norm’ when we speak of novels and how they are
written. When the audience reads Oskar’s chapters, they are almost forced to
read the chapters as fast as Oskar’s flow of thoughts.

The second narrator, grandmother, is
characterised by her spaced out text. Grandmother writes her letters on a
typewriter which explains her spacing. She uses short sentences and since there
is so much space on her pages, the reader can slow down and take time to read
and understand what grandmother is saying, compared to Oskar’s fast pace
chapters. Grandmother’s chapters are recognised by the title “My feelings”.

Finally, the third narrator,
grandfather, Thomas Schell Sr. is recognised by the chapters “Why I’m Not Where
You Are”. Grandfather’s chapters are characterised by his long and big blocks
of text that go on and on for many pages. His chapters have almost no spacing,
unless they are pages from his notebook which he uses to communicate with
others, since he is mute. Grandfather’s chapters cause the audience to read
fast and more uptight to be able to understand the text, as it goes on and on
for pages.


Foer does not only make use of
different narrators throughout the story, he also makes use of photographs. These
photographs belong to Oskar’s book “Stuff That Happened to Me” and sets a mood
for the novel. In the very beginning of the book there are three images of a
door-knob from up-close, birds flying frantically and a shaky picture of an
apartment building. These photographs create a mood for the book that seem dark
and dangerous. The reader is exposed to many more pictures that set the mood
and allow the reader to interact with the story. Pages 47-49 are the pages from
a notebook from a book shop where you can test pens. These pages intertwine
with Oskar’s story where he is searching for his father. He comes across this
notebook and finds his father’s name written in it. This allows the reader to
join in on Oskar’s search for his father as we too can search for his name. Foer’s
use of these images through the novel, restrict the reader to imagine the story
to their own. Foer gives the reader actual images and shows us what the
notebook really looks like. This may be a limitation to some readers but can
also be seen as Foer being able to control his story and send his exact message
across to reader.


Foer’s use of multi-modality throughout Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is
very distinct and deviates from what is considered the ‘norm’ in novel writing.
The purpose of Foer’s multi-modality allows the reader to interact with the
novel and get to know the characters on a more personal level than if the novel
was only written through the eyes of Oskar Schell. Furthermore, the use of
images makes the book very visual and allows the reader to follow Oskar’s
journey and even participate in it. This approach to storytelling affects the
reader in such way that the characters are much more exposed. It also allows
the reader to intertwine the stories from the different characters along with
the photographs. Even though the images may restrict the reader to imagine the
story for themselves, it enables Foer to tell