Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close | Study Guide

Jonathan Safran

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Course Hero. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Study Guide." Course Hero. 30 Aug. 2019. Web. 25 Oct. 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Extremely-Loud-and-Incredibly-Close/>.

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Course Hero. (2019, August 30). Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Extremely-Loud-and-Incredibly-Close/

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(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Study Guide." August 30, 2019. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Extremely-Loud-and-Incredibly-Close/.


Course Hero, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Study Guide," August 30, 2019, accessed October 25, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Extremely-Loud-and-Incredibly-Close/.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close | Symbols



A little more than a year after Dad's death, Oskar accidentally breaks a vase in Dad's closet. Inside the vase is a key. Oskar has never seen it before, and it doesn't open anything in the apartment. Oskar becomes obsessed with finding the lock that goes with the key, convinced that determining the key's origin will bring him closer to his father. He wears the key around his neck on the same chain that holds his apartment key, both positioned close to his heart.

To Oskar, the key and his quest to find its matching lock symbolize the love he feels for his father. Before discovering the lock, "I didn't love Dad enough," he thinks at the top of the Empire State Building. Yet while Oskar is hunting for the lock that fits the key, he feels more love for his father than before. He is reminded of Dad every time he thinks about the key and finding its lock. When he does finally find the lock and gives up possession of the key, he feels farther away from Dad than ever before. "Looking for it let me stay close to him for a little while longer," Oskar tells the renter in "A Simple Solution to an Impossible Problem." Without the key, Oskar feels the memory of his father slowly drifting into the past.

Compass Necklace

Before they set out on their first adventure through New York together, Oskar gives Mr. Black a homemade necklace with a compass on it. Wherever Mr. Black stands inside his apartment, the compass will point him toward his enormous handmade bed because the bed is covered in nails, one for each day since Mr. Black's wife died. Together, the nails have created a strong magnetic field that pulls other magnetic objects, such as paper clips, into its orbit. Thus, the compass will always point in the direction of the bed.

The compass represents Oskar's personal perspective on grief. He believes that when a loved one dies, the best course of action is to find ways to be close to them. For him, being close means singing Dad's favorite songs, revisiting favorite memories, and trying to learn everything about him. Oskar assumes that Mr. Black puts a new nail into his bed every morning for the same reason. Oskar surmises that Mr. Black doesn't leave his apartment because he doesn't want to be far away from the memory of his wife. The compass is Oskar's way of connecting Mr. Black to his deceased wife even when he's not at home. It's a thoughtful gift and one Oskar would have liked for himself.


Oskar considers himself a highly emotional person. This classification can be difficult because he's not always sure what emotion he's experiencing at a given moment. Although he keeps a journal of his feelings, he still has trouble finding the words to explain what's going through his head and his heart. It is easier for him to talk about tangible, knowable things. That's where boots come in. When Oskar thinks of his father's death or about the dangers one faces in life, he says he's wearing "heavy boots." Things that cheer him, such as writing letters to influential scientists, make his "boots" lighter. Boots are a metaphorical representation of Oskar's emotional state. More often than not, they are very, very heavy.

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