Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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Mr. Black Character Analysis

Mr. A. Black’s first name is never given, even though he’s the Black that Oskar becomes the closest with on his quest. Mr. Black lives a few floors above Oskar, and even though he hasn’t left his apartment for twenty-four years, he decides he’s going to accompany Oskar on the rest of Oskar’s expedition. Mr. Black says that he was born on January 1, 1900, which makes him over a century old; everything he says ends in an exclamation point, because he shouts everything. Mr. Black used to be a war correspondent, and his apartment is stuffed with fascinating memorabilia. The bed in the apartment is made out of a tree—his wife kept tripping over the tree root, so Mr. Black cut it down and made it into a bed—and Mr. Black has put a nail into it every day since his wife died. There are so many nails in the tree now that the keys on Oskar’s neck float gently towards the bed, magnetically compelled. Mr. Black keeps a biographical index of “significant people”; every name has one word after it in description, and that word is usually “war” or “money.” Mr. Black becomes smitten with Ruth Black, whom he and Oskar meet on top of the Empire State Building, but after they visit her, Mr. Black quits their expedition. When Oskar returns to Mr. Black’s apartment, Mr. Black is gone, and his possessions are about to be cleared out. Oskar finds his own name in Mr. Black’s biographical index with “son” as his description.

Mr. Black Quotes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Black or refer to Mr. Black. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Mariner Books edition of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close published in 2006.
Chapter 7 Quotes

But still, it gave me heavy, heavy boots. Dad wasn’t a Great Man, not like Winston Churchill, whoever he was. Dad was just someone who ran a family jewelry business. Just an ordinary dad. But I wished so much, then, that he had been Great. I wished he’d been famous, famous like a movie star, which is what he deserved. I wished Mr. Black had written about him, and risked his life to tell the world about him, and had reminders of him around his apartment.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad, Mr. Black
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the novel, “heavy boots” are a personal metaphor for the sadness and guilt that Oskar undergoes, primarily due to the trauma of his father’s death and the events that unfold from that. Oskar spends a great deal of the novel walking around New York City to process his trauma, and he expresses his psychological burdens physically. The phrase “heavy boots” refers to both sadness and guilt for Oskar. “Heavy boots” is also subtly reminiscent of World War II, as the phrase could potentially evoke the army, or people marching through concentration camps in chains. Oskar is likely not aware of this association, but throughout the novel, the parallel trauma to September 11 is the Dresden bombing, and “heavy boots” calls to mind images of war prisoners and war as well as personal guilt and the feeling of "heaviness" that comes with depression or grief.

Oskar wishes that Mr. Black somehow magically had a card about his father, since this would prove that Dad had planted the key as a clue for Oskar to trace around New York City. Oskar’s description of the writing that he wants to see about his father is, however, a description of the very novel that the reader is reading.

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Chapter 15 Quotes

OSKAR SCHELL: SON

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Mr. Black
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 286
Explanation and Analysis:

Foer not only writes about what many of Mr. Black's business cards or index cards (which contain brief biographical information about people he considers "significant") say and look like, but he also places an image of these cards directly into the novel. Mr. Black’s card describing Oskar resembles in size and shape the business cards that Oskar makes for himself. Oskar’s business card also begins with his name, but underneath it he has packed many descriptions, including inventor, jewelry designer, percussionist, and amateur archaeologist. Throughout the novel, Oskar takes all the roles he describes himself as having and many more. Mr. Black does not have a comprehensively detailed description on every card, but rather, exactly the opposite. He has a vast library of people in his card catalog, and all of them are distilled to one essential description. Oskar may, indeed, do many things and have many traits—but being a son is Oskar’s primary motivation, and being a son is a very complex, layered job that gets at the root of everything Oskar does. Oskar spends the majority of the novel on a quest to discover the mystery of the key in his closet, which is a quest designed to bring him closer to his dead father. But being a son is also about being there for his mother, who is still alive, yet is mostly silent in the background for much of the novel. Even though Oskar concentrates explicitly on looking for clues about his father, it is his mother who is there for him, and whom he has to be there for in the present.

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Mr. Black Character Timeline in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Black appears in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7, Heavier Boots
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...and out of that apartment—just deliveries and trash. Oskar goes up to this apartment, and Mr. Black invites him in. Mr. Black speaks very loudly, and every sentence he says ends in... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Mr. Black , who is quite talkative, tells Oskar facts about his life rapid-fire (all ending in... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Mr. Black shows Oskar his biographical index: thousands of cards with one word and a one-word biography.... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...bathroom and surreptitiously tries the key on several keyholes in the apartment, but none work. Mr. Black has an amazing bed made out of tree parts. He made it for himself and... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar finds out that Mr. Black hasn’t left the apartment for twenty-four years, which makes him sad, because Mr. Black must... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...close”; there’s a photograph of blurry birds spanning two pages. The hearing aids work, and Mr. Black starts to cry. (full context)
Chapter 9, “Happiness, Happiness”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
That weekend, he and Mr. Black (from the apartment upstairs) continue the search. They take the train to the Bronx, which... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar and Mr. Black leave, but Oskar makes Mr. Black turn around after three blocks to ask the Spanish... (full context)
Chapter 13, “Alive and Alone”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
After six and a half months of searching for the key together, Mr. Black tells Oskar that he is finished, which makes Oskar feel incredibly lonely. Oskar goes up... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...of the Empire State Building. Oskar is very panicky to get on the elevator, but Mr. Black just says that that that’s okay, so Oskar has nothing to argue against, and eventually,... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...a clipboard. He asks her for her name, and it’s Ruth. Ruth gives Oskar and Mr. Black a tour, recounting the history of the Empire State Building: she describes its architecture, gives... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Mr. Black gets down on his knees and asks Ruth on a date. She says that she... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
When Mr. Black and Oskar return home, Mr. Black tells Oskar that he’s finished searching. Oskar screams an... (full context)
Chapter 14, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (9/11/03)”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...to house, on Staten Island—probably Georgia Black’s house—and knocks on the door after Oskar and Mr. Black leave; the woman tells him that she’s just gotten off the phone with Oskar’s mother... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
One day, Grandpa writes, when Oskar and the old man ( Mr. Black ) go into the Empire State Building, Grandpa waits for them in the street. The... (full context)
Chapter 15, “A Simple Solution to an Impossible Problem”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
The day after “the renter” (Grandpa) and Oskar dig up Dad’s grave, Oskar goes to Mr. Black’s apartment to tell him what happened, but an unfamiliar woman answers and tells him that... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Oskar goes to the index of biographies Mr. Black kept and takes out Mr. Black’s card. He looks in the S-file—he can’t help it—and... (full context)