November 19, 2010
QUESTION: How does Foer's use of grammar and mechanincs affect the overall effect of
on the reader?
The Use of Grammar and Punctuation in
Everything is Illuminated
Since Kindergarten, people all over the world have been learning the importance of grammar.
Things as simple as periods, commas, quotation marks, and even spaces between words have been
around since the creation of language. Punctuation is so small that it is often overlooked, but it is one of
the most important parts of all literature. Punctuation separates ideas, making things readable and easy
to understand. It places a break in the sentence, allowing for the reader to take a breath, separate their
thoughts, and comprehend what he or she has read. So why would a well established author publish
something completely lacking proper punctuation and grammar? In the section of
by Jonathan Safran Foer, where Alex tells the reader Grandfather's war story, Foer
removes all forms of grammatical separation in order to better represent Grandfather's feelings, as well
as generate a more emotional response from the reader.
This six page section of the book starts off completely separated from the rest of the novel.
Foer, writing as Alex, begins the story in parentheses, which places it aside and shows its importance.
From the moment this passage begins Foer is already removing punctuation that separates. A few lines
in Foer does not use any quotations to partition the different speakers. The first place this happens is
when he says, “I murdered Hershel, he said. Or what I did was as good as murdering him. What do you
mean? I asked him” (Foer, 247). Here, both Grandfather and Alex are speaking (in that order),
however, quotations are removed so it is difficult to tell who is speaking. This makes it harder to