Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Grandpa Character Analysis

Thomas Schell, Sr. is Oskar’s grandfather, who also is one of the narrators of the novel: several of the chapters present a series of letters that Grandpa has written to his son but never sent. (Many of these letters could either be to Anna’s unborn child or to Oskar’s Dad, who is also named Thomas Schell.) Grandpa is a sculptor, and he’s sensitive and artistic. He survived the firebombing of Dresden, but as a result, has a tremendous amount of post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor’s guilt: Grandpa’s lover, Anna, and their unborn child died in the firebombing, along with Grandpa’s parents and hundreds of others. Due to the aftereffects of this trauma, Grandpa loses the ability to speak. He has YES and NO tattooed on his hands and relies on gestures and notes in blank books, which he refers to as his “daybooks,” to communicate. Grandpa comes to New York and runs into Grandma, Anna’s sister; they marry, though Grandpa is still in love with Anna and mourning her loss, and they set up an elaborate system of rules for themselves, designating areas of the apartment as “Something” and “Nothing.” When Grandma gets pregnant, breaking one of their rules, Grandpa leaves her and goes back to Germany. Forty years later, he returns to New York, and eventually, Grandma lets him stay in her apartment. Oskar only knows Grandpa as “the renter.” Oskar and “the renter” dig up Dad’s grave, and Grandpa buries his unsent letters inside Dad’s coffin. At the end of the novel, Grandpa goes to the airport, presumably to run away again, but Grandma follows him and convinces him to live in the airport with her.

Grandpa Quotes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close quotes below are all either spoken by Grandpa or refer to Grandpa. 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 2 Quotes

I haven’t always been silent, I used to talk and talk and talk and talk, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, the silence overtook me like a cancer.

Related Characters: Grandpa (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Chapter 6 Quotes

We took the blueprint of our apartment from the hallway closet and taped it to the inside of the front door, with an orange and a green marker we separated Something from Nothing. “This is Something,” we decided. “This is Nothing.” “Something.” “Nothing.” “Something.” “Nothing.” “Nothing.” “Nothing.” Everything was forever fixed, there would only be peace and happiness, it wasn’t until last night, our last night together, that the inevitable question finally arose, I told her, “Something,” by covering her face with my hands and then lifting them like a marriage veil. “We must be.” But I knew, in the most protected part of my heart, the truth.

Related Characters: Grandpa (speaker), Grandma (speaker)
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

I have so much to tell you, the problem isn’t that I’m running out of time, I’m running out of room, this book is filling up, there couldn’t be enough pages, I looked around the apartment this morning for one last time and there was writing everywhere, filling the walls and mirrors, I’d rolled up the rugs so I could write on the floor, I’d written on the walls and around the bottles of wine we were given but never drank, I wear only short sleeves, even when it’s cold, because my arms are books, too. But there’s too much to express. I’m sorry.

Related Characters: Grandpa (speaker), Grandma
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 8 Quotes

He took a picture of every doorknob in the apartment. Every one. As if the world and its future depended on each doorknob. As if we would be thinking about doorknobs should we ever actually need to use the pictures of them.

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), Grandpa
Related Symbols: Doorknobs
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 13 Quotes

I want to stop inventing. If I could know how he died, exactly how he died, I wouldn’t have to invent him dying…There were so many different ways to die, and I just need to know which was his.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Grandpa, Dad
Related Symbols: Science, Mathematics, and Invention
Page Number: 257
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

I was in Dresden’s train station when I lost everything for the second time.

Related Characters: Grandpa (speaker)
Page Number: 272
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur

There won’t be enough pages in this book for me to tell you what I need to tell you, I could write smaller, I could slice the pages down their edges to make two pages, I could write over my own writing, but then what?

Related Characters: Grandpa (speaker), Dad
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 276
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Grandpa Character Timeline in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The timeline below shows where the character Grandpa appears in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1, “What The?”
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
...second time that he was in a limo—when he and “the renter” (that is, Oskar’s Grandpa) went to dig up Dad’s coffin—and then talks about the “Reconnaissance Expeditions” that he and... (full context)
Chapter 2, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (5/21/63)”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...longer be the narrator. (The reader doesn’t know it yet, but the narrator is Oskar’s Grandpa.) The chapter is written in the form of a letter that begins, “To my unborn... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
To communicate, Grandpa has the word “YES” tattooed on his left palm and “NO” tattooed on his right.... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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...or “Ha ha ha!”. The letter resumes after a few of these blank pages, and Grandpa describes the hundreds of stacks of these daybooks that have accumulated all over his apartment.... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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When Grandpa met the mother of the “unborn son,” he had already lost the ability to speak.... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
The woman (Grandma) asks the writer of the letter (Grandpa) why he doesn’t speak, and the narrator writes, “I don’t speak. I’m so sorry.” The... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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Grandpa flips back to several phrases in the daybook–– “Ha ha ha!” and “I’m sorry, this... (full context)
Chapter 3, “Googolplex”
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
...they do very often. Oskar tells Grandma that he misses Dad. He asks her why Grandpa wanted to leave, and imagines a device that would flash out of ambulances to tell... (full context)
Chapter 4, “My Feelings”
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Grandma goes to Grandpa’s apartment every day so that he can sculpt her. The apartment is filled with animals,... (full context)
Chapter 6, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (5/21/63)”
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
...same date as the letter from Chapter 2, and it’s by the same narrator—that is, Grandpa—writing to his son. The letter begins with a long, stream-of-consciousness description of the many rules... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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Grandpa writes that he thought he and Grandma could have had a beautiful reunion, although they... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Love and Family Theme Icon
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Grandpa says that he’s writing from the airport to his unborn son, thinking about Anna. He... (full context)
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Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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Day after day, Grandpa walked to Anna’s house, but she’s never home. As it turns out, she was never... (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
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There’s a piece of paper from Grandpa’s daybook inserted—“Do you know what time it is?—and the narration returns to the present. He... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...that she’d never noticed. Jonathan Safran Foer includes a few blank sheets in the chapter. Grandpa can’t bear to tell Grandma that the pages are all blank, so he tells her... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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After another piece of paper from Grandpa’s daybook that reads “Do you know what time it is?”, the narrator reminisces about the... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
There is another sheet from Grandpa’s daybook that reads “Do you know what time it is?”, and the narration returns to... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Grandpa writes that he’s sorry for everything—sorry for the marriage, sorry for being about to leave... (full context)
Chapter 7, Heavier Boots
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
...himself reads: “A.R. Black: WAR HUSBAND”. Oskar asks if Mr. Black has a card for Thomas Schell , but he doesn’t have one, which gives Oskar “heavy, heavy boots.” (full context)
Chapter 8, “My Feelings”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Grandma discusses the beginning of her marriage with Grandpa. Grandpa took pictures of every detail in their apartment, including the doorknobs. Grandpa used to... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...feels a hole inside her and realizes that she needs a child. She writes in Grandpa’s daybook to tell him that she is pregnant, which means that she has broken the... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
Grandma follows Grandpa to the airport, but he tells her that she has to go home. Even though... (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
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In the airport, talking to Grandpa, Grandma has several memories of her family as she is trying to convince Grandpa to... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Grandpa keeps pointing at “Broken and confused” and “Nothing” in the daybook and Grandma points at... (full context)
Chapter 10, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (4/12/78)”
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
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This letter, by Oskar’s Grandpa, has red pen circles around many words and phrases, as though someone had gone through... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Love and Family Theme Icon
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Grandpa is writing to his son from the spot where Anna and Grandma’s father’s shed used... (full context)
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The last time that Grandpa saw Anna, she told him that she was pregnant. That night, the bombs fell on... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Language and Communication Theme Icon
Grandpa goes to the zoo, where he has to shoot all the animals that had escaped.... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Grandpa remembers that after Anna had told him she was pregnant, her father gave Grandpa a... (full context)
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Grandpa writes that he knows that he will not be able to send the letter he... (full context)
Chapter 12, “My Feelings”
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 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... (full context)
Chapter 13, “Alive and Alone”
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
...from the guest room and realizes that it must be the renter. An old man (Grandpa, although Oskar doesn’t know it yet) opens the guest room door. The man brings out... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Oskar stands in the hall, and Grandpa stands in the room: “The door was open, but it felt like there was an... (full context)
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Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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Oskar decides to tell the old man—that is, Grandpa—the whole story of his expedition, starting with the broken vase and going through all of... (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
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...don’t know a single thing I didn’t know six months ago,” Oskar tells the renter (Grandpa). (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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...runs home and gets the phone with Dad’s messages on it. Oskar plays them for Grandpa. Grandpa suggests (by writing) that maybe Dad had seen somebody inside and ran in to... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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...bodies, and he wonders if his Dad could have been one of them. Oskar asks Grandpa to try talking. Grandpa puts his fingers on his throat, and they flutter, but no... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Grandpa writes Oskar a note asking Oskar not to tell Grandma that they’d met. Grandpa also... (full context)
Chapter 14, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (9/11/03)”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Love and Family Theme Icon
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The chapter opens with a few pages from Grandpa’s daybook, which are phrases he had written to Oskar in the previous chapter: “I don’t... (full context)
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Grandpa tells the story about his arrival in New York, a few days after September 11,... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Grandpa writes about getting off the plane soon after September 11, 2001. He writes in his... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Grandpa calls Grandma on a pay phone, and when she answers, he tries to communicate with... (full context)
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Grandpa was in a Dresden train station on September 11, 2001, “when I lost everything for... (full context)
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Grandma lets Grandpa live in the guest room. He finds his daybooks from before he had left: they... (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
...is getting smaller and smaller, because there will never enough pages in the book for Grandpa to tell the whole story, he writes. Grandpa asks Grandma if he can meet Oskar,... (full context)
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One day, Grandma tells Grandpa about Dad—who is, she says, “Not our son, my son.” Grandma gave Dad the only... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Grandpa spends most of his time walking around the city, and then he begins to follow... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Grandpa goes to a bookstore on the Upper West Side and sees a man whom he... (full context)
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One day, Grandpa writes, when Oskar and the old man (Mr. Black) go into the Empire State Building,... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Grandpa returns to the point in the story when Oskar meets Grandpa, only knowing him as... (full context)
Chapter 15, “A Simple Solution to an Impossible Problem”
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The day after “the renter” (Grandpa) and Oskar dig up Dad’s grave, Oskar goes to Mr. Black’s apartment to tell him... (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
That night, Oskar meets the renter (Grandpa, that is) under the streetlamp to discuss the details of their plan to dig up... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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Grandpa gives Oskar a letter. It’s from Stephen Hawking, who thanks Oskar for all the letters... (full context)
Chapter 16, “My Feelings”
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
Grandma, the narrator, describes the day when Grandpa comes in in the middle of the night with dirt on his pants. Grandpa doesn’t... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
...She writes a note, tapes it to the window, and takes a cab to follow Grandpa to the international terminal at the airport, where he is sitting and asking people what... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Love and Family Theme Icon
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Grandpa tells Grandma that Anna had been pregnant, but Grandma knew the whole time. Grandpa also... (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
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Grandma writes that she is typing this very letter sitting across from Grandpa at a table at the airport. When she is typing the letter to Oskar, Grandma... (full context)
Chapter 17, “Beautiful and True”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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...dig up the coffin. At 11:50 PM, Oskar sneaks out of the house to meet Grandpa, and at exactly midnight, Gerald, the limousine driver who had driven Oskar to Dad’s funeral,... (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
At the cemetery, it takes twenty minutes just to find Dad’s grave. Oskar and Grandpa start digging, but after an hour, they’ve barely gotten anywhere. The flashlight runs out of... (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
...although he knows he shouldn’t be, at how empty it is. Even though Oskar and Grandpa had gone over all the details, they hadn’t discussed until the day before what they... (full context)