Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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William Black Character Analysis

William Black, Abby’s husband, is the “Black” of the envelope that the key was inside; or, to be more precise, William’s father was the “Black” of the envelope, because the key opens his father’s safety deposit box. When William’s father was dying, he wrote letters to all of his friends and acquaintances. The letter he wrote to William says that there’s a key to the father’s safety deposit box inside a blue vase, but before William had read the letter, he sold that blue vase in an estate sale to Oskar’s Dad. William had searched for Oskar’s Dad, but since it was right after September 11, the search went nowhere. William had a complicated relationship with his father and never got to say goodbye, so finding the key helps provide some closure for him.

William Black Quotes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close quotes below are all either spoken by William Black or refer to William 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 15 Quotes

He needed me, and I couldn’t pick up. I just couldn’t pick up. I just couldn’t. Are you there? He asked eleven times. I know, because I’ve counted. It’s one more than I can count on my fingers….Sometimes I think he knew I was there. Maybe he kept saying it to give me time to get brave enough to pick it up.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad, William Black
Related Symbols: Telephones
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

When Oskar gives William Black the key from the vase, Oskar symbolically unlocks the secret that he has been carrying inside him throughout his entire quest. Oskar confesses to William that his father had called their family’s phone right until the moment that the Twin Towers came down. By telling William his secret as well as giving William the actual key, the key has fulfilled its purpose in the novel, both physically and symbolically.

As it turns out, Oskar had the answer to the mystery of the key for nearly the entirety of his quest, but he didn’t know it. Abby Black had left Oskar a message on the answering machine, but Oskar had been too traumatized to listen, because he was haunted by the guilt of his father’s voice on that same answering machine. But Oskar’s mom had heard Abby’s message, and, unbeknownst to Oskar, had been calling every person named Black in the city and preparing him or her for Oskar’s visit. When Oskar gives away the physical key, he not only relieves himself of his burden, but he also unlocks the closed door between himself and his relationship with his mother.

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William Black Character Timeline in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The timeline below shows where the character William Black appears in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15, “A Simple Solution to an Impossible Problem”
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
Oskar goes to Abby Black’s husband’s office. The husband, William Black, works on foreign markets, which is why he’s at work on a Sunday night.... (full context)
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
Oskar shows William the key. William asks Oskar if he found it in a blue vase. William says... (full context)
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
William says that his father died two years ago, fairly suddenly: he went to the doctor... (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
William goes through his father’s Rolodex and talks to everyone about the letters that his father... (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
William says that Dad had come to the sale on the way home from work and... (full context)
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
William invites Oskar to go with him to the bank to open the box, but Oskar... (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
Oskar tells William that his Dad had left five messages on the answering machine on the morning of... (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
Oskar asks William if he forgives him for not being able to tell anyone about the phone call,... (full context)