Study Guide

Everything Is Illuminated Sex

By Jonathan Safran Foer


Many girls want to be carnal with me in many good arrangements. (1.2)

Big talkers aren't always big doers. Alex may talk up sex as a sign of masculinity, but we later find out he's a nearly-30-year-old virgin.

[Sofiowka] would sit naked in the fountain of the prostrate mermaid, caressing her scaly tuches, […] caressing his own better half as if there were nothing in the world wrong with beating one's boner, wherever, whenever. (3.6)

Do you think anyone tried to stop Sofiowka from being a public masturbator? We have to wonder why they just let him run wild.


Yikes, this is both darkly comic (because Sofiowka's penis is almost always in his hand) and grim foreshadowing of Sofiowka's raping of Brod thirteen years later.

"My penis is very big." (10.27)

We're not sure if Alex actually says this Jonathan, or if he just puts it into his account of the story because of his insecurity with his masculinity. Either way, dude, we don't really need to hear about it.

I have never been carnal with a girl. (17.7)

WHOA WHOA WHOA say what? You mean, all this talking about sex and you've never actually done it? Shocking. We're shocked. (And we're also kind of touched that he trusts Jonathan enough not to judge his virginity.)

When the blush of a schoolgirl's cheeks was mistaken for the crimson of a holy man's fingers, it was the schoolgirl who was called hussy, tramp, slut. (24.31)

Women always seem to be the ones who are looked down upon for so-called "loose" sexual behavior. Safran never once seems to be criticized for sleeping with over a hundred women. What's with the sexual double standard?

"Did [the waitress] say anything else? You can see her tits when she leans over." (This was yours, you will remember. I did not invent this, and so cannot be blamed.) (26.1)

Alex might talk a lot about sex, but we're pretty sure he'd never use the word "tits." That's word is a way of distancing himself from the peeping-tom behavior, letting the reader know that he (Alex) definitely did not make this objectifying remark. Maybe it's Jonathan who's the real perv.

They made love for the last time, unaware that the next seven months would pass without any words between them. (27.121)

Even though Safran loves the Gypsy girl, he doesn't seem to understand how to express his love to her in a way other than sex. (Try "I love you," dude!) Because he'll have sex with almost anything on two legs, it doesn't really mean all that much to her.

After thoroughly satisfying the sister of the ride against a wall of empty wine racks […] and being himself so thoroughly unsatisfied, Safran pulled up his trousers […] and greeted the wedding guests. (30.1)

Safran seems to be having sex (like with the sister of his bride-to-be) more out of habit than out of pleasure. None of his sexcapades give him any feelings remotely resembling joy or happiness.

And then something extraordinary happened. The house shook with such a violence as to make the day's earlier disturbances seem like the burps of a baby. KABOOM! […] My grandfather was filled with a coital energy of such force that when it unleashed itself—KA=BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! […] (31.3)

It's difficult to tell if all the KABOOMS in this scene (there are seven, and about seventy big-O's in some of them) are bombs falling near Trachimbrod, surges of orgasm, or both—but our money's on both.