Study Guide

Everything Is Illuminated Exploration

By Jonathan Safran Foer


Because Everything is Illuminated begins with the promise of a quest—Jonathan Safran Foer (the character) is headed to the Ukraine to find information about his grandfather—you'd think Exploration would be higher up on our list of themes. And the journey is important, maybe even more important than the destination, because we totally end up in a different place we'd expect. It's just that so much more happens along the way. Plus, the characters are often focused on other things, so it feels like the Ukrainian countryside just flies by. Maybe the real exploration here is the internal kind.

Questions About Exploration

  1. Why is Jonathan looking for Augustine? Why does Alex's Grandfather want to fine Augustine so badly?
  2. What do you think is the most difficult part of the journey?
  3. What comic events happen to Jonathan over the course of the journey? How do the comic mishaps actually affect the journey?
  4. Does Jonathan find what he's looking for? Something else? Anything?

Chew on This

Everything is Illuminated is just as much about the journey itself—and the people (and dogs) met along the way—as it is about the destination. Maybe even more so.

Jonathan vicariously explores Trachimbrod through the items in the box given to him by Not-Augustine—but only until they're lost on the train. Perhaps Trachimbrod wasn't meant to be explored.