Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Oskar Schell Character Analysis

Oskar is the nine-year-old protagonist of the novel: he’s extremely precocious and incredibly imaginative, but he has a lot of fears, worries, anxieties, and guilt. As he walks around New York, Oskar carries a tambourine, which he shakes to try and calm himself. Oskar is also insatiably curious, and—as his business card, which has about twenty different occupations listed shows—he has a huge range of interests, from making jewelry to physics to archaeology to the Beatles. Oskar keeps a binder of Stuff That Happened to Me that’s filled with plenty of stuff that didn’t happen to him—images of tennis players and astronauts, for example—but provides him with a fossil record of his imagination. Unlike Grandpa’s meticulous photographs of the apartment, Oskar’s book is a sort of photo album of his mind. Oskar uses external cues to help him process his emotions. Oskar describes his grief not as being sad but as “having heavy boots,” which allows him to have a way of expressing an indescribable emotion. The plot of the novel centers around Oskar’s expedition to figure out the purpose of the key that he finds in Dad’s closet, but this journey is really about Oskar finding closure after his Dad’s death on 9/11 and to help him deal with his own survivor’s guilt. Oskar has an enormous set of rituals and rules by which he organizes his life—he only wears white, won’t go on public transportation, is vegan, hates heights, avoids bridges—and the expedition also allows and forces Oskar to face his rational fears by tackling his irrational ones.

Oskar Schell Quotes in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close quotes below are all either spoken by Oskar Schell or refer to Oskar Schell. 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 1 Quotes

Isn’t it so weird how the number of dead people is increasing even though the earth stays the same size, so that one day there isn’t going to be room to bury anyone anymore?

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Related Symbols: Science, Mathematics, and Invention
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

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I spent all day walking around the park, looking for something that might tell me something, but the problem was that I didn’t know what I was looking for…But that’s how tricky Dad could be. There was nothing, which would have been unfortunate, unless nothing was a clue. Was nothing a clue?

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
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There were four more messages from him: one at 9:12, one at 9:31, one at 9:46, and one at 10:04. I listened to them, and listened to them again, and then before I had time to figure out what to do, or even what to think or feel, the phone started ringing.
It was 10:26:47.
I looked at the caller ID and saw that it was him.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Related Symbols: Telephones
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

And maybe you could rate the people you knew by how much you loved them, so if the device of the person in the ambulance detected the device of the person he loved the most, or the person who loved him the most, and the person in the ambulance was really badly hurt, and might even die, the ambulance could flash GOODBYE! I LOVE YOU! GOODBYE! I LOVE YOU!

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Science, Mathematics, and Invention
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

When I was exactly halfway across the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge, I thought about how a millimeter behind me was Manhattan and a millimeter in front of me was Queens. So what’s the name of the parts of New York—exactly half through the Midtown Tunnel, exactly halfway over the Brooklyn Bridge, the exact middle of the Staten Island Ferry when it’s exactly halfway between Manhattan and Staten Island—that aren’t in any borough?

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Science, Mathematics, and Invention
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

I felt, that night, on that stage, under that skull, incredibly close to everything in the universe, but also extremely alone. I wondered, for the first time in my life, if life was worth all the work it took to live. What exactly made it worth it? What’s so horrible about being dead forever, and not feeling anything, and not even dreaming? What’s so great about feeling and dreaming?

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker)
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Then, out of nowhere, a flock of birds flew by the window, extremely fast and incredibly close. Maybe twenty of them. Maybe more. But they also seemed like just one bird, because somehow they all knew exactly what to do.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker)
Page Number: 165
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

I adjusted the string so the keys—one to the apartment, one to I-didn’t-know-what—rested against my heart, which was nice, except the only thing was that it felt too cold sometimes, so I put a Band-Aid on that part of my chest, and the keys rested on that.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Keys
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

A millimeter at a time, the Sixth Borough receded from New York…The eight bridges between Manhattan and the Sixth Borough strained and finally crumbled, one at a time, into the water. The tunnels were pulled too thin to hold anything at all. The phone and electrical lines snapped…those fireflies in glass jars, which had once been used merely for decorative purposes during the festivals of the leap, were now found in every room of every home, taking the place of artificial light.

Related Characters: Dad (speaker), Oskar Schell
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:

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By the time the park found its current resting place, every single one of the children had fallen asleep, and the park was a mosaic of their dreams.

Related Characters: Dad (speaker), Oskar Schell
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

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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 15 Quotes

OSKAR SCHELL: SON

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

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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:

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Chapter 16 Quotes

Here is the point of everything I have been trying to tell you, Oskar.
It’s always necessary.
I love you,
Grandma

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), Oskar Schell
Related Symbols: Letters, Notes, and Notebooks
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

I’d have said “Dad?” backwards, which would have sounded the same as “Dad” forward.
He would have told me the story of the Sixth Borough, from the voice in the can at the end to the beginning, from “I love you” to “Once upon a time…”
We would have been safe.

Related Characters: Oskar Schell (speaker), Dad
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

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Oskar Schell Character Timeline in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The timeline below shows where the character Oskar Schell 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
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Language and Communication Theme Icon
The novel launches right into Oskar’s mind: the reader jumps from idea to idea to idea, without getting introduced to what’s... (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
Oskar describes his first jujitsu class, which is also his last jujitsu class, as kicking his... (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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Thinking about his tambourine and his Dad’s death makes Oskar free associate about death in general: he ruminates about all the dead people throughout history,... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Oskar describes the limousine ride to the cemetery for his Dad’s funeral. He chatters at Gerald,... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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Mom asks Oskar why Oskar has given a spare set of keys to the mailwoman; though Oskar is... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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Oskar briefly mentions the second time that he was in a limo—when he and “the renter”... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Oskar eventually arranged all the random objects and connects the dots to spell “FRAGILE,” which makes... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Oskar then begins to describe the letters he began to write after “the worst day” (that... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Trauma and Guilt Theme Icon
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Oskar describes the last story that his Dad ever told him, about New York City’s sixth... (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
This chapter is set in 1963, so Oskar must no longer be the narrator. (The reader doesn’t know it yet, but the narrator... (full context)
Chapter 3, “Googolplex”
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Oskar is the narrator of this chapter. He describes the bracelet he made for Mom after... (full context)
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Since his Dad’s death, Oskar has had trouble with several triggering things, like showers, crossing suspension bridges, and being around... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
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...he’s never seen before. The vase breaks, but when no one comes to chastise him, Oskar, out of relief and guilt, gives himself a bruise. When he starts to clean up,... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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The next morning, Oskar fakes sick—the first lie he has to tell, he reports—and goes to the locksmith to... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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When Oskar returns home, Stan, the doorman, gives him mail: a form letter from Ringo Starr with... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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Oskar calculates that there are 162 million locks in New York City, and it would take... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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Oskar retrieves the envelope that the key had been in and sees the word “Black” written... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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The next day, Oskar fakes being sick again to his Mom so that he can skip school. They chat... (full context)
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
Superstition and Ritual Theme Icon
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Oskar goes to the art supply store because he wants to ask them about colors. The... (full context)
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Oskar notices that one of the pages has his Dad’s name, “Thomas Schell,” on it. (The... (full context)
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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Back at home, Oskar discovers 472 people in New York with the name “Black,” living at 216 different addresses.... (full context)
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Trying to fall asleep, Oskar flips through pictures in his Stuff That Happened to Me binder, and Jonathan Safran Foer... (full context)
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Oskar listens to Dad’s phone messages again. He keeps the phone inside his closet—he didn’t want... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Oskar’s Grandma lives in the building just across from him, so he can see it through... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
Puzzles and Cleverness Theme Icon
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Oskar and Grandma talk for a bit over the walkie-talkies, as they do very often. Oskar... (full context)
Mortality and the Purpose of Life Theme Icon
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Oskar puts the key from the vase on the string around his neck, next to his... (full context)
Chapter 5, “The Only Animal”
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Oskar is the narrator in this chapter. Oskar remembers reading the first chapter of A Brief... (full context)
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Oskar puts together a field kit, including a flash light, ChapStick, his cell phone, iodine pills,... (full context)
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Oskar makes it to Queens and buzzes for A. Black. Oskar asks the man who answers... (full context)
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Oskar walks for two hours and twenty-three minutes to get to Abby Black’s house on Bedford... (full context)
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A man calls from the other room, but Abby doesn’t pay attention. When Oskar finds a bit of dust in the kitchen, Abby gets embarrassed, causing Oskar to launch... (full context)
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Oskar compliments Abby on a photograph of an elephant hanging on the wall, causing him to... (full context)
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Abby begins to cry. Her husband continues to yell, and she continues to ignore him. Oskar tells her that’s he’s twelve, because “I wanted to be old enough for her to... (full context)
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Oskar invites Abby to the fall play his class is putting on, Hamlet, which will be... (full context)
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Oskar goes over to Grandma’s apartment when he gets home. She’s just been crying. She tells... (full context)
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Oskar remembers that Grandma used to take care of him when he was a baby. Once,... (full context)
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After Dad died, Oskar explains to the reader, Oskar and his Mom went to Oskar’s Dad’s storage facility, where... (full context)
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Oskar remembers how his Grandma knits him white clothes and finds special things for him. She... (full context)
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That night, Oskar stays up designing jewelry, and he can’t stop thinking about his Dad’s storage facility. He... (full context)
Chapter 7, Heavier Boots
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Oskar narrates this chapter. Twelve weekends after visiting Abby Black, Oskar’s class has its first performance... (full context)
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Oskar imagines an elaborate alternate version of the play in which Yorick wreaks his revenge on... (full context)
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Twelve weeks earlier, Oskar had gone to visit Abe Black in Coney Island. He took a cab to get... (full context)
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Abe convinces Oskar to ride the Cyclone with him, even though Oskar is terrified. There’s a photograph of... (full context)
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Abe drives Oskar to Ada Black’s apartment in Manhattan. Ada tells Oskar that she is the “467th-richest person... (full context)
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Oskar tells the maid, Gail, that her uniform is beautiful, but when Gail leaves, Ada tells... (full context)
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The next Black lives just one floor above Oskar, in 6A. Stan, the doorman, tells Oskar that he’s never seen anyone go in and... (full context)
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Mr. Black, who is quite talkative, tells Oskar facts about his life rapid-fire (all ending in exclamation points). Oskar is mesmerized. He thinks... (full context)
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Mr. Black shows Oskar his biographical index: thousands of cards with one word and a one-word biography. For example:... (full context)
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Oskar goes to the bathroom and surreptitiously tries the key on several keyholes in the apartment,... (full context)
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Oskar’s key is reaching toward the bed: there are so many nails that they are exerting... (full context)
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Oskar finds out that Mr. Black hasn’t left the apartment for twenty-four years, which makes him... (full context)
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Oskar turns on the hearing aids for him. A flock of birds flies by the window,... (full context)
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That night, Oskar and his Mom fight as Oskar’s Mom is tucking him into bed. Mom tells him... (full context)
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Oskar and Mom start to make up, but the fight escalates when Oskar says that she... (full context)
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Oskar tries to take it back, but Mom is hurt. Eventually, he falls asleep on the... (full context)
Chapter 8, “My Feelings”
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The narrator of this chapter is Grandma, writing a letter to Oskar from the airport (continued from the previous “My Feelings” chapter, Chapter 4). They are announcing... (full context)
Chapter 9, “Happiness, Happiness”
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The chapter begins with an interview of a Hiroshima survivor. Oskar is playing the recording for his classmates at school. The woman in the interview describes... (full context)
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After the recording, the girls in Oskar’s class are crying, and the boys are making barfing noises. Oskar explains scientific aspects of... (full context)
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Oskar explains that dark things burn more than lighter things, because dark absorbs light; in a... (full context)
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Jimmy Snyder asks Oskar who Buckminster is, and when Oskar says, “Buckminster is my pussy,” the kids crack up.... (full context)
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...the apartment upstairs) continue the search. They take the train to the Bronx, which makes Oskar very panicky, though he manages to get through it. When they get to Agnes Black’s... (full context)
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Oskar and Mr. Black leave, but Oskar makes Mr. Black turn around after three blocks to... (full context)
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...meet Albert Black and Alice Black, but neither one of them knows about the key. Oskar asks Alice if he can kiss her. Oskar receives a letter from Gary Franklin, a... (full context)
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Allen Black is a doorman for a building on Central Park South. Oskar helps him set up an email account. As Oskar is leaving, Allen says, “Good luck,... (full context)
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On Tuesday, Oskar has an appointment with his therapist, Dr. Fein. Dr. Fein asks Oskar about Oskar’s emotions,... (full context)
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That night, Oskar listens to one of Dad’s messages again—the one left at 9:46 AM—and waits for Saturday,... (full context)
Chapter 10, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (4/12/78)”
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This letter, by Oskar’s Grandpa, has red pen circles around many words and phrases, as though someone had gone... (full context)
Chapter 11, “The Sixth Borough”
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In the first chapter of the novel, Oskar alludes to his Dad telling him the story of the Sixth Borough, and this chapter... (full context)
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Dad tells Oskar that the Sixth Borough was an island separated from Manhattan by a thin body of... (full context)
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Dad tells Oskar there are lots of clues in Central Park to its mysterious origin, like its strange... (full context)
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...planet, it frames whatever is underneath it. The island is completely frozen now, he tells Oskar. (full context)
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Oskar asks Dad if any of the things that he dug up from Central Park were... (full context)
Chapter 12, “My Feelings”
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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... (full context)
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Oskar’s Mom calls, asking if Grandma has heard from Dad; neither of them has. Mom tells... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 13, “Alive and Alone”
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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 to Grandma’s... (full context)
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Oskar hears a sound coming from the guest room and realizes that it must be the... (full context)
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Oskar stands in the hall, and Grandpa stands in the room: “The door was open, but... (full context)
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Oskar decides to tell the old man—that is, Grandpa—the whole story of his expedition, starting with... (full context)
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Then, Oskar describes Ruth Black, whose address is the eighty-sixth floor of the Empire State Building. Oskar... (full context)
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Oskar has no idea who Ruth might be, but he has a hunch when he sees... (full context)
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When Mr. Black and Oskar return home, Mr. Black tells Oskar that he’s finished searching. Oskar screams an obscenity at... (full context)
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Oskar, surprising himself, runs home and gets the phone with Dad’s messages on it. Oskar plays... (full context)
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Oskar says that he wants to know how Dad died so he can stop inventing how... (full context)
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Grandpa writes Oskar a note asking Oskar not to tell Grandma that they’d met. Grandpa also writes that... (full context)
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Oskar tries to sleep, but keeps inventing different ideas, like frozen planes and skyscrapers with moving... (full context)
Chapter 14, “Why I’m Not Where You Are (9/11/03)”
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...opens with a few pages from Grandpa’s daybook, which are phrases he had written to Oskar in the previous chapter: “I don’t speak, I’m sorry”; “My name is Thomas”; “I’m still... (full context)
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...Grandpa to tell the whole story, he writes. Grandpa asks Grandma if he can meet Oskar, but she says no; however, she shows him how he can see Oskar through the... (full context)
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...spends most of his time walking around the city, and then he begins to follow Oskar. When Oskar starts going on his expedition, Grandpa follows him; he makes a map of... (full context)
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One day, Grandpa writes, when Oskar and the old man (Mr. Black) go into the Empire State Building, Grandpa waits for... (full context)
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Grandpa returns to the point in the story when Oskar meets Grandpa, only knowing him as “the renter.” That night, Grandma and Grandpa make love.... (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 what happened,... (full context)
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Oskar goes to the index of biographies Mr. Black kept and takes out Mr. Black’s card.... (full context)
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The last Black Oskar visited was Peter, in Harlem. Peter was sitting on the stoop when Oskar arrived, holding... (full context)
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When Oskar comes home that night, he looks at the telephone (the new one, not the old... (full context)
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Oskar tells Mom that he’s going out, and Mom doesn’t protest, even when Oskar says he’ll... (full context)
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Abby says that her husband knows about the key, but on the day when Oskar had visited eight months ago, she couldn’t tell Oskar about it, because she was having... (full context)
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Oskar asks Abby why her message on the answering machine had cut off in the middle,... (full context)
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Oskar goes to Abby Black’s husband’s office. The husband, William Black, works on foreign markets, which... (full context)
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Oskar shows William the key. William asks Oskar if he found it in a blue vase.... (full context)
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...and that Dad was planning to give the vase as an anniversary gift to Mom. Oskar wishes that William could remember every tiny detail about Dad. William tried for a long... (full context)
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William invites Oskar to go with him to the bank to open the box, but Oskar declines: he’s... (full context)
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Oskar tells William that his Dad had left five messages on the answering machine on the... (full context)
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Oskar asks William if he forgives him for not being able to tell anyone about the... (full context)
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That night, Oskar meets the renter (Grandpa, that is) under the streetlamp to discuss the details of their... (full context)
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Grandpa gives Oskar a letter. It’s from Stephen Hawking, who thanks Oskar for all the letters that he’s... (full context)
Chapter 16, “My Feelings”
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...but Grandma knew the whole time. Grandpa also tells Grandma that he has been seeing Oskar, but Grandma knows that, too. Grandpa says that last night, he and Oskar dug up... (full context)
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...from Grandpa at a table at the airport. When she is typing the letter to Oskar, Grandma writes, she is choosing Oskar over Grandpa, because she can’t see Grandpa’s face. She... (full context)
Chapter 17, “Beautiful and True”
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During dinner with Mom and Ron, Oskar finds out that Ron’s wife and daughter had died in a car accident. Ron and... (full context)
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Oskar has packed a backpack and gathered all his supplies together to dig up the coffin.... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Oskar is surprised that the coffin is wet and cracked in a few places. The lid... (full context)
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It’s 4:12 AM when Oskar returns home. Mom is on the sofa, awake, but doesn’t ask Oskar where he’s been.... (full context)
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...her that he was on the street, out of the building, even though he wasn’t. Oskar cries, and Mom carries him to bed. Oskar tells her that it’s okay if she... (full context)
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Oskar gets out his binder of Stuff That Happened to Me, which is full. He finds... (full context)
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Oskar imagines what it would be like if time worked like that: if the man had... (full context)