Study Guide

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Language and Communication

By Jonathan Safran Foer

Language and Communication

Chapter 2
Grandpa (Thomas Schell, Sr. aka The Renter)

I haven't always been silent, I used to talk and talk and talk and talk, I couldn't keep my mouth shut, the silence overtook me like a cancer. (2.1)

Grandpa is silent, and he has to write everything down in order to communicate. But from his way of writing, all the comma splices, like we're writing right now, we can tell that he used to be a person that would talk and talk and talk, he writes like he must have talked.

Chapter 3

Sometimes [Grandma will] write notes for me on her window, which I can see through my binoculars, and once Dad and I spent a whole afternoon trying to design a paper airplane that we could throw from our apartment into hers. (3.57)

It's interesting that Oskar and his Grandma were communicating in this way before his Dad died. He probably wasn't afraid of the phone then. Why do you think they experimented with communication in this way?

Oskar Schell

I got out of bed, went over to the window, and picked up the walkie-talkie. (3.54)

Oskar and his Grandma stay close by communicating via walkie-talkie. It's a handy way for Oskar to keep in touch with her, because he's afraid of using the phone. The walkie-talkie allows for a bit of distance, which is more comfortable for Oskar. It's a clever work-around for his fear of phones.

Chapter 4

I read newspapers and magazines all day long. I wanted to learn idioms. I wanted to become a real American. (4.31)

For Grandma, part of becoming an American is speaking like an American. She wants to blend in, not stand out, and the best way to do that is to learn the language.

Chapter 9
Minor Characters

"I'm going to say a word, a person's name, or even a sound. Whatever. There are no right or wrong answers here. No rules. Should we give it a try?" (9.60)

Dr. Fein plays a classic word association game with Oskar, one that tells us a lot about what's going on in Oskar's head and illustrates the sometimes unique way he communicates. ("Celebrate." "Ruff, ruff." "Was that a bark?" "Anyway.")

Chapter 10
Grandpa (Thomas Schell, Sr. aka The Renter)

Every day I write a letter to you. (10.1)

Isn't it crazy that a man who's mute writes so many words to his son? And even though he writes all these words, he never sends them; he's mute even in writing.

Chapter 11

"The string between them grew incredibly long, so long it had to be extended with many other strings tied together." (11.26)

People being separated from each other as the Sixth Borough floats away go to great lengths (ha!) to stay in communication with one another. But the farther away people get, the harder it is to communicate. This must have been in the days before WhatsApp.

Chapter 13

"He told me to go up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, and as he walked around New York, he'd occasionally shine the light up at me so I could see where he was." (13.108)

Ruth Black's husband had a way to communicate with her, and it was to shine a lantern as he walked around the city. It kept them close, even when he was far away. But when he died, she wasn't sure what to do. Her whole life seems to have been defined by this connection between her and her husband.

"I not know was New York. In Chinese, ny mean 'you.' Thought was 'I love you.'" (13.63)

Fo Black makes a humorous miscommunication error, wearing an I ♥ NY shirt, thinking the shirt just means "you" instead of a city. It's sweet, and his meaning kind of makes more sense. Shouldn't we love the people in a city more than the city itself?

Chapter 14
Grandpa (Thomas Schell, Sr. aka The Renter)

I broke my life down into letters, for love I pressed "5, 6, 8, 3," for death, "3, 3, 2, 8, 4." (14.1)

Here's a method of communicating you probably haven't seen since puzzle books in elementary school: using a telephone keypad to talk. What follows is a nearly indecipherable sequence of hundreds of numbers. It's impossible to understand what Grandpa is saying by <em>reading </em>the numbers, so imagine trying to decipher this by <em>tone. </em>No wonder Grandma hangs up. Another colossal failure of communication, even though the emotion behind it was pretty intense.