“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”- The Apocalypse and the Innocent, a Literature Review Loss of innocence has been a recurring theme in the world literature, because loss is a part of life that is inherent in all human experience, and what is literature, if not an attempt at sharing the quintessential aspects of human life…
For instance, in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies the innocent respond to the apocalypse by hopelessly degenerating into abject crudeness and barbarity, thereby questioning the supposed nobility of human existence and the lofty achievements of human civilization (Otten 1982). In contrast, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee shows the innocent witnessing the rampant social injustices with their inherent simplicity and artlessness, without attempting any analytical or immaturely logical approach towards trying to figure out things (Sterne 1994). In Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, the innocent succumb to the defilement of cherished intimacy and friendship before an abject sense of helplessness and painful unconcern (Shivani 2007). In that context, Jonathan Safran Foer, in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close affects a unique treatment to the theme under consideration, in the sense that it celebrates the survival of innocence, signified by its very ability to feel pain, trauma and loss and its adamant stubbornness to seek out a meaning in the surrounding gloom and apathy. In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, nine year old Oskar is an innocent from the 21st century, who, though, inflicted by the sorrow and loss affected by a very contemporary apocalypse, refuses to give up. On the contrary, he chooses to squarely grapple with the bizarre aftermath wrecked by the apocalypse, painstakingly and deliberately looking out for solutions, trying to eke out explanations, desperately desiring to cull out some sense out of the world obsessed with nihilism. Story of Oskar depicts how the innocent collide with reality in the modern times. According to Claude Peck, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not as much a novel about 9/11, but rather a literary after-effect, which tends to illustrate the varied imaginative and psychological dimensions of the apocalypse (2005). To explore this modern day apocalypse, Foer had to improvise an offbeat format marked by vivid pictures, photos and illustrations portraying themes and scenes from the novel, empty pages and pages having only one sentence, coloured graphics, doodles, typographical oddities and a strange ending involving multiple pages showing a man falling from a skyscraper (Peck 2005). The novel vividly delineates how innocent Oskar tries to come to terms with his personal loss and trauma, his resultant bouts of anxiety, insomnia, self-mutilation and depression (Peck 2005). In many ways, Oskar is an exceptional nine years old, as he is a vegan, regularly corresponds with Stephen Hawking, can converse in passable French and is an avid and ingenuous inventor. However, one thing that Oskar has in common with all the New York children, and actually with many of the New Yorkers, is his deep seated sense of remorse and despair over the 9/11 World Trade Centre attack (Peck 2005). Surprisingly, Oskar responds to this tragedy by zealously trying to translate his anguish into pragmatic action, into some meaningful search that culminates into something life affirming, a possible resuscitation of the bruised yet indefatigable spirit of modern humanity (Peck 2005). Sadly, Oskar’s approach towards facing reality is not so liked by some prophets of the yore. Perhaps, as usual they consider innocence and naivety to be synonymous. In a review written for the New Yorker, John Updike commented on the futility of filling a 300 plus page book with “ ...
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