Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Grandma narrates this chapter, and she’s writing to Oskar. She describes where she was when the plane hit the World Trade Center: she was knitting Oskar a white scarf, and she watched the coverage on the news, where a father was being interviewed about his missing girl.
Grandma and Grandpa both watched the terrorist attack on television, but several thousand miles apart. The father searching for his daughter recalls Grandpa searching for Anna during the Dresden firebombing.
Themes
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Oskar’s Mom calls, asking if Grandma has heard from Dad; neither of them has. Mom tells Grandma that she loves her. Grandma goes over to Oskar’s apartment, and although she knows he’s there, she can’t find him at first. Finally, she lies on Oskar’s bed and hears him breathing beneath her. He had been released from school immediately, he tells her, and he had walked straight home. She joins him under the bed, and they lie there together until Mom returns home.
The image on the television of the father searching for his daughter prompts Grandma to go over to Oskar’s apartment; although Oskar doesn’t reveal himself to her immediately, she knows that he is there. The bed they hide under is reminiscent of the bomb shelters during Dresden, as though the apartment building could fall around them.
Themes
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Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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Mom comes home and asks if Oskar’s Dad had called. Oskar says no, and also says no when Mom asks if there had been any messages on the phone. Grandma keeps knitting the scarf longer and longer all afternoon. Mom makes posters with Dad’s face and takes a rolling suitcase filled with them downtown to hang all around.
The white scarf Grandma knits is symbolic of her worry about Dad as well as her love for Oskar. Mom’s suitcase filled with posters of Dad’s face recalls the suitcase that Grandpa fills with the letters to his unborn son: both sets of papers are necessary for the creator to try and hang on to someone who is gone, but both forms of communication prove futile in the end.
Themes
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Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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While Mom is gone, Grandma waits with Oskar. When Oskar falls asleep, Grandma turns on the television but puts it on silent. The same pictures reel over and over: bodies falling, planes going into buildings, buildings falling.
The silent images of bodies falling and planes crashing into the building creates a verbal flip book in the chapter: the images go on loop in both the reader’s head and Grandma’s mind. These images are parallel to the ones Grandpa watches in Germany on the television screens.
Themes
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Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Grandma writes about Dad’s funeral sometime later, in which they buried Dad’s empty coffin. That night, Oskar walks Grandma to her front door, and the doorman gives her a letter that a person had just left for her. Grandma asks Oskar to read the letter, and it says, “I’m sorry.” Grandma had scrubbed away all Grandpa’s writing after he had left her, but with these two words, she knows that he has returned.
When Grandma loses Thomas Schell, Jr., Thomas Schell, Sr., returns to her life: on the very night that they bury Dad, Grandpa comes back as though he has been resurrected.
Themes
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