Study Guide

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Cunning and Cleverness

By Jonathan Safran Foer

Cunning and Cleverness

Chapter 1

There was nothing, which would have been unfortunate, unless nothing was a clue. Was nothing a clue? (1.21)

Because the Reconnaissance Expeditions didn't have rules or many clues, it forced Oskar to think creatively and enjoy the process. His father probably knew how Oskar always liked having a logical answer, and the Expeditions were a way to get him to think out of the box.

A great game that Dad and I would sometimes play on Sundays was Reconnaissance Expedition. (1.20)

When Dad was alive, he's often organize little scavenger hunts for Oskar, like this one, where he'd have to find certain items in Central Park. Oskar thinks his Dad might have still left clues for him even after he died, like the key in the vase.

Chapter 3
Oskar Schell

I ran home and did some more research, and I found 472 people with the name Black in New York. There were 216 different addresses, because some of the Blacks lived together, obviously. (3.39)

That's some great detective work, kid. If we ever need to find somebody (or just need an Excel spreadsheet done up) we're definitely contacting Oskar Schell.

I did some research on the Internet about the locks of New York, and I found out a lot of useful information. (3.19)

For someone as inquisitive as Oskar, you can imagine what a treasure-trove of facts the Internet is for him. When he researches locks, he gets preoccupied with numbers and facts. It's this quality, along with Oskar's difficulty in social situations, that's one of the reasons some people think that Foer created Oskar as someone with Asperger's syndrome.

I Googled around and found out that Black wasn't the name of a company that made lockboxes. (3.23)

Most kids would just give up at this point, but not Oskar. He employs some hardcore critical thinking skills to track down the mystery of the key.

Chapter 5
Oskar Schell

"So what's on the menu?" "Queens and Greenwich Village." "You mean Gren-ich Village?" (5.5)

This passage shows that, for all his smarts, Oskar doesn't yet have a lot of real-world savvy outside his own immediate experience. You have to wonder if he knows how to pronounce all those French phrases he tosses around, like raison d'être.

Chapter 7
Oskar Schell

I decided that it would be better to Google Winston Churchill when I got home, instead of mentioning that I didn't know who he was. (7.60)

A wise move, Oskar. By holding his tongue, he avoids listening to a lengthy and loud history shouted at him by Mr. Black.

"I've lived long enough to know I'm not one-hundred-percent anything." (7.66)

Oskar isn't the only clever character in this book. Mr. Black, who has more than hundred years behind him, knows that no matter how wise he gets, he'll never know everything. In fact, it seems like the older you get, the less you know. Or the more you know what you don't know. Or something like that.

Chapter 9

Because the radiant heat traveled in straight lines from the explosion, scientists were able to determine the direction toward the hypocenter from a number of different points, by observing the shadows cast by intervening objects. (9.24)

Sometimes Oskar's cleverness comes at the expense of emotional sensitivity. In this instance, he focuses on the science behind the atomic bomb, while ignoring all the death that happened as a result of the blast. A lot of the kids in class were crying by this point.

Chapter 17
Oskar Schell

I don't think I figured out that he was my grandpa, not even in the deep parts of my brain. I definitely didn't make the connection between the letters in his suitcases and the letters in Grandma's dresser, even if I should have.

But I must have understood something, I must have, because why else would I have opened my left hand? (17.69-70)

Here's Oskar realizing that there's knowledge that lies outside the realm of logic. He was responding to the emotional connection to the man who turns out to be his grandpa, and that this is also a way of knowing.