Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

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Jonathan Safran Foer follows his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated, with an unexpectedly hilarious and affecting story about New York City in the period following September 11

 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close recasts recent history through the eyes of Oskar Schell, an unusually intelligent nine-year-old on an urgent quest to find the lock that matches a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center. This unlikely adventure takes Oskar through every city borough and into contact with survivors of all sorts, and it's his irrepressible voice—one that few writers could conceive as imaginatively as Foer does—that transforms the tragedy of circumstance into an exhilarating tribute to love.

Curriculet Details
123 Questions
106 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 9th and 10th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations concerning the author’s writing style, thematic connections to literary works such as Edna Saint Vincent Millay’s poem “Grief,” and explanation of how the main character meets Joseph Conrad’s criteria to achieve hero status. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about motifs and scenes from the film version of this novel. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of theme, textual evidence, and figurative language. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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What the?

The French phrase, 'raisons d'etre', means reasons for living or existing. As you continue to read, look for multiple "raisons d'etre" which give Oskar a sense of purpose. 
In the opening paragraph, you meet Oskar Schell, the main narrator. Immediately, you will get a sense of Oskar's imagination as he mentions wanting to invent a teakettle that can sing Beatles' songs. You can infer that Oskar is young with his references to making his anus talk about his farts. His combination of immature subject matter but sophisticated language and references gives the impression that he is young but very intelligent. Below you can listen to the Beatles' song, "Yellow Submarine" that Oskar references.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Does Oskar excel in his jujitsu classes? 
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What emotions are associated with the images of a tambourine versus heavy boots? 
Watch and listen to the performance by Yuja Wang of "The Flight of the Bumblebee". This song has a fast, frantic pace. It seems a bit absurd that Oskar claims to play this piece on his tambourine. This example, although perhaps less significant than other examples in the chapter, does seem to perfectly fit the "What the ?" chapter title. (This annotation contains a video)
In literature, an allusion is a reference to a person, place, thing or idea that contains historical, literary, artistic, or political significance. Here, Oskar refers to Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. In the play, Hamlet unearths and holds up the skull of Yorick, a court jester Hamlet knew and loved as a boy.  
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Which piece of textual evidence is most essential to developing an understanding of what has happened to Oskar's father and how Oskar feels about it? 
Stephen Hawking is a world famous cosmologist and theoretical physicist. He suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease. Hawking has said, "All my life, I have been fascinated by the big questions that face us, and have tried to find scientific answers to them. If, like me, you have looked at the stars, and tried to make sense of what you see, you too have started to wonder what makes the universe exist. The questions are clear, and deceptively simple. But the answers have always seemed well beyond our reach. Until now." As you read, you will begin to notice that Oskar also struggles with big questions. Like Hawking, Oskar takes a scientific approach to trying to discover answers to his questions. (This annotation contains an image)
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Oskar's description of limousines and use of the italicized words serve to  
Oskar reveals he has a nine year old's sense of humor when he finds humor in saying "shiitake" because the first part of the word sounds like profanity. Technically, shiitake is a type of mushroom like the ones pictured below.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Based on the highlighted text, what do Oskar's observations of his mom's actions reveal? 
Watch the short video explaining what a motif is in literature. As you continue to read, look for repeated motifs. (This annotation contains a video)
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What does "I was zipping up the sleeping bag of myself" mean? 
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According to Oskar, what is one of his "raisons d'etre" or reasons for living? 
The word 'reconnaissance' means an inspection or exploration of an area. It is often used to refer to military operations. For Oskar, these games are ways to spend cherished time with his father. One effect of reading about these flashbacks is you, as the reader, are able to develop a better understanding of who Oskar's father was, and the incredible impact he had on his son. By highlighting the special bond between father and son, you develop a deeper attachment and empathy for the characters.  
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Summarize in your own words what Oskar means by the highlighted statement as well as what his dad means. In addition, which statement (dad's or son's) do you relate to more and why? 
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Which theme is beginning to emerge? 
Below you will see a picture of the cover of Oskar's favorite book. This is the second reference to Stephen Hawking.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What lightens Oskar's mood? 
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Which is NOT a reason cited in the text for why Oskar loves his dad? 
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What type of figurative language is used when Oskar says "I watched the fireflies of his thoughts orbit his head"? 
The picture below is of a shortwave radio. These radios are used for long distance communication using shortwave frequencies. Many love communicating in this manner as a hobby, for educational purposes, or in emergencies. As a reader, pay attention to forms of communication (like this reference and the stamp with Alexander Graham Bell). Communication (both what is said and unsaid) is being explored.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Using the highlighted text, identify the tone. 
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As the narrator, Oskar goes back and forth between the present and the past. This is a deliberate decision in regards to the pacing of the novel. Which statement below most accurately explains the intended effect of this decision on readers? 

Why I’m Not Where You Are 5/21/63

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Oskar's grandfather describes himself as a tree and the world as a river. What can you infer about how his grandfather views himself and the world around him? 
Oskar's grandfather's writing style is very unique; he expresses himself through the written word. He writes in very large chunks and does not indent when there is a new speaker. In addition, he does not follow grammatical rules for punctuation. This is especially true when he is recounting an intense, emotional part of his narrative. Each characters' writing style adds to our understanding of communication. What might the author be trying to say about communication?  
This begins an account written from Oskar's grandfather's perspective. His decision to begin with "To my unborn child" seems to convey a sad, regretful tone. What might have happened to his unborn child? 
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What is the significance of Oskar's grandfather living surrounded by his hundreds of books filled with single-page responses? 
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According to the text, what similarity unites Oskar's grandfather and grandmother? 
On the previous page, the picture of the door knob with the lock turned speaks loudly. It seems a fitting metaphor for Oskar's grandfather whose words are locked inside himself.  
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Oskar's grandfather used to practice what talent in his past life? 

Googolplex

A googolplex is a mathematical term invented by Milton Sirotta, the 9-year nephew of mathematician Edward Kasner. When asked what such a large number should be called, Sirotta reportedly replied only something as silly as a googol. Later, the term googolplex came to mean ten to the power of googol (one followed by ten to the power of 100). The founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, named their search engine after googol. Their headquarters is called the Googolplex. 
On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked American planes and crashed into the World Trade Towers in Manhattan, New York, and into The Pentagon in Washington DC. Over 2,000 people died in the World Trade Center attack alone. Both towers ended up collapsing. The setting of Oskar's narrative is in post-September 11th Manhattan. The book takes place two years after the tragedy.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What is the purpose of the word googolplex in the highlighted text? 
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Oskar refers to an earlier scene in the highlighted text. What was the purpose of including this bedtime scene earlier in the book? 
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What do "heavy boots" represent? Explain the relationship between Oskar's imagination and "heavy boots" using evidence from the highlighted text 
Notice that when dialogue occurs during Oskar's narration, there is no visual separation between speakers. Normally, when a writer uses dialogue, he or she will indent every time there is a new speaker. The result is you have to pay close attention to figure out who is saying what. One effect of this is the focus is on what is being said rather than who is saying it. It is one of the many ways that the author, Foer, develops a distinct writing style and challenges readers' ideas of communication.  
Oskar's response is from Ringo Starr. He achieved fame as the drummer for The Beatles. This is the second response that Oskar has received from someone famous. As you continue to read, try to determine the purpose of these letters. Do they have anything in common? (This annotation contains an image)
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What does Oskar's research reveal about his character? 
Because of his high level of intelligence yet difficulties correctly interpreting social situations, some critics have suggested that Oskar is slightly autistic. Children with autism typically have difficulties interpreting social cues, verbal and nonverbal communications, and exhibit repetitive behaviors. However, there are many different levels of autism, and each case is unique.  
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Oskar shares a long list of things with his mom in an effort to help her to understand how he is feeling. Which image most accurately symbolizes or represents Oskar's list? 
It is interesting that Oskar uses "unspecial" because it is not a real word. He should have said "not special." The effect of using "unspecial" is that Oskar sounds younger, more childish. This is a departure from his normal more sophisticated language. As a reader, one has to wonder if Oskar is doing it on purpose to make his mother feel more sympathetic towards him especially since he desires to stay home "sick" from school again. 
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Oskar only wears white. He is trying to discover who or what the word Black is referring to on the key envelope. What is the significance of the colors white and black? 
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Explain how Oskar comes to the conclusion that the word "Black" refers to a person and not to the color.  
Oskar tends to use italics when he is exaggerating. The use of hyperbole throughout the novel is one of its defining characteristics. 
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What is the purpose of the letter to Marcel? 
Oskar feels closer to his father because the quest to find the lock that the key belongs to is like one last reconnaissance expedition. It is a bridge uniting the son with his departed father.  
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The highlighted text is an effect of what event? 
In the next few pages, you will encounter various pictures and even a blank page. Each visual (or lack of of a visual) should take on more significance than those at the beginning of the book because you know more about Oskar, his life, and his way of thinking. As you view the images consider whether or not a single image on a page is more powerful than prose (words, sentences, paragraphs). 
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What does Oskar do to supposedly protect his mother?  
The punctuation of the phone message lets you hear the desperation in Oskar's dad's voice. It also gives the sense that his dad is in a tense, chaotic, and frightening situation.  
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Identify one theme that is emerging? 
This would explain the diagram of the airplane that was included recently in the set of pictures. That diagram may also be significant because the Twin Towers were hit by airplanes. At first glance, it may have seemed random. However, as you continue to read, the images that are included in the book take on more significance.  
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Which statement is the best explanation of why the highlighted figurative language is used? 
This describes one of the photographs at the beginning of the book. Why do you think Oskar took this picture? One possibility is the flash, which lights up the darkened street, serves to highlight the darkness caused by grief that both Oskar and his grandmother are experiencing.  
Oskar's theory, about pockets large enough to fit the universe in, is an example of hyperbole. That is, he uses a gross or huge exaggeration. Hyperboles are often used to evoke strong feelings. Here, you can sense how strongly Oskar wishes that there was a safeguard or guarantee of protection for those we love. If he could, he would definitely put his dad in his pocket. 

My Feelings

Immediately, you can visually recognize that someone new is narrating this chapter. Oskar tends to indent his paragraphs but not indent when there are new speakers. His grandfather tends to write in huge chunks with no indentations and sporadic punctuation. As you continue to read, you will discover that Oskar's grandmother is now narrating. At a quick glance, she is separating paragraphs (which allows for white space between paragraphs) but not indenting, and she is using several spaces after a period. As you read, try to get a feel for her voice and formulate a theory of how her writing style develops her as a character.  
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Oskar's grandmother receives a letter as a girl from an unknown man in a Turkish prison camp. Which two details are particularly surprising to the grandmother? 
The prisoner's letter is posted in 1921. Oskar's grandmother has shared that she receives it fifteen years later, allowing readers to place this flashback in 1936. She has also shared that she is German and lives in Dresden, Germany. At this time, Hitler was already well on his way to trying to control much of Europe. The map below shows countries that were occupied by Hitler's Nazi Germany. (This annotation contains an image)
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Letters serve as a key method of communicating in this novel. Which choice would NOT explain the significance of the inmate's letters? 
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famous story, "The Yellow Wallpaper" was first published in 1892. It recounts the story of a new mother, suffering from what we know today is post-partum depression, but who is diagnosed incorrectly with a nervous disorder. The narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" is trapped within the suffocating domestic lifestyle and lack of individualism due to marriage imposed on the majority of women in earlier centuries. Watch a modern-day take on "The Yellow Wallpaper" below and be prepared to make comparisons between the video and Oskar's great-grandmother's life. (This annotation contains a video)
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After watching the modern-day video interpretation of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and learning about Oskar's great-grandmother's life, which statement most accurately describes both female characters? 
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Oskar's grandfather's only dreams are to become a sculptor and marry Anna's sister. What can you infer about his grandfather, Thomas, based on what you already know about him? 
Once again, the idea of communication is being explored. As a reader, we can infer from the highlighted text that each character is trapped by their own grief. They are only able to use simple everyday phrases to communicate. However, it is what they don't say that speaks the loudest. Anna was the link between other two characters in their past life in Dresden. Her absence is "extremely loud and incredibly close" to each of these characters. 
By comparing her to a doll, we get the sense that Thomas views her as a pretty object to be molded and moved yet controlled by him. Their actions (sculpting) suggest that the husband can exert control over his wife because he can bend and position her to be what he wants. However, as you read look for evidence of whether Oskar's grandmother is able to fit Thomas' mold for her. 
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According to Oskar's grandmother, what is Thomas' purpose in sculpting her? 
The bronze sculpture of "The Little Mermaid" by Edvard Eriksen sits in Copenhagen's harbor in Denmark; it was completed in 1913. Be prepared in the next question to identify similarities between this sculpture and Oskar's grandmother.  (This annotation contains an image)
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How is Edvard Eriksen's sculpture "The Little Mermaid" similar to Oskar's grandmother?  

The Only Animal

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What does Oskar mean when he says, "Even if it was relatively insignificant, it was something, and I needed to do something, like sharks, who die if they don’t swim, which I know about"? 
Watch the video below that focuses on Oskar's fears. As you watch, compare it to what you have read. (This annotation contains a video)
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Why do you think Oskar wants to give himself bruises? 
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Based on "Ashes of Life", which statement would the narrator be most likely to share with Oskar about life?  
Click on the link below and read Edna Saint Vincent Millay's poem "Ashes of Life." As you read, determine the theme of the poem. The next question will ask you to demonstrate your understanding of how this poem relates to Oskar's life. (This annotation contains a link)
E.S.P. stands for extrasensory perception or the ability to read minds. 
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What important realizations does Oskar come to regarding Abby Black? 
Like the title of the book, Abby and Oskar are standing "incredibly close" to one another, and yet their unspoken grief separates them. 
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What is the different picture that Oskar takes of Abby Black? 
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What is Oskar's grandmother's fear? 
Oskar is struggling with internal conflict because he does not want to forget his father. Memories are intangible because they are not concrete. You can see Oskar's struggle come out in the storage facility because he is faced with getting rid of tangible reminders of his father.  
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What word would best describe the grandmother based on the highlighted text? Why? 
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Based on the highlighted text, what is the significance of the rock that was "as big as a baby"? 
One reason that many of the characters seem to suffer from their grief in silence is because they are afraid of what they might say. 
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What does Oskar mean when he says, "I was in the place that I couldn't come back from"? 
Oskar's struggles with his grief are often shown through his thoughts about his mom. He does not want her to get over his dad to quickly, to be too good of friends with Ron, or have happy dreams. However, he also acknowledges that he doesn't want to know about her nightmares because he has too many of his own. Each character struggles with what it means to grieve together and individually. 
Quiz on Chapters One-Five: 

Why I’m Not Where You Are 5/21/63

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In saying "she wanted more slang, more figures of speech, the bee's knees, the cat's pajamas..."the grandfather is emphasizing 
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The silence that characterizes their marriage leads to 
Oskar's grandfather enjoys seeing people united even though he knows that he will not be reunited with Anna. As a reader, this builds suspense because he still has not revealed what exactly happened to her.  
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What literary device is used in the highlighted text? 
Virgil wrote, “Amor vincit omnia,” which translates to 'love conquers all.' However, the characters is this novel (especially the grandfather's relationship) call this statement into question. How much can one take before love is not enough? 
Essentially, the highlighted text reveals that Thomas' whole world hinges on whether or not Anna likes him. If he were in school, he might have passed her a note like the picture below, asking her to check yes or no! (This annotation contains an image)
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What does Thomas realize when he looks at his wife's manuscript? 
Watch the short video clip below on foreshadowing. Thomas reveals that Anna's father dies at a young age; consequently, he is never able to reach his full potential. Thomas' narrative includes small pieces of information that entice the reader to keep reading and foreshadow events to come.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What is the purpose of alternating between flashbacks to Thomas' life with Anna in Dresden long ago and his life in New York with his wife.  
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Describe what Thomas' life is like as he suffers from grief. Then contrast that with how he would like to live his life if he could let his grief go.  
In these last moments with his wife, Thomas' gestures attempt to convey everything he cannot say. By opening her eyes wide, he attempts to remove the "blindness" that she has allowed herself to wear in order to cope. Yet, he is about to leave his wife, and it is important to note that he is also admits that he will be leaving his son. His decision to leave sends the message that living in a "marriage of millimeters and rules" is not working. It has not allowed him to move past his grief or enjoy the present.  
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According to the text, what is the main difference between the grandpa and the grandma? 

Heavy Boots Heavier Boots

Notice that the original title was crossed out and the comparative form is used. It creates the sense that Oskar's grief is starting to spiral out of control. As you read, look for evidence of whether this is true or not.  
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Based on the highlighted text, the theme of the invention of imagination is evident. What purpose does Oskar's imagination serve in developing this theme? 
As a reminder, the tragic play Hamlet by William Shakespeare centers around Hamlet, a son grieving for his murdered father, who vows to avenge his father's death. In Act V, Scene i of Hamlet, Hamlet, while holding Yorick's skull says: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy...and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!" This quote brings up themes like death, grief, and the power of the imagination. The similarities between the two texts make it apparent to readers that including Hamlet is a deliberate choice on the author's part. Be prepared to encounter a questions comparing these two texts in Quiz Two at the end of chapter ten. 
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Read the highlighted text. How would the tone be different if Oskar instead said, "I didn't want to be dead any longer"? 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is what Stephen Hawking has.  
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Why does the audience clap and thank Oskar after pummeling Jimmy with the skull? 
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Based on what you know about Oskar, how might he respond to Picasso and Stevens' belief that art is a lie that allows one to see the truth? 
Below you will see an example of Picasso's work. This painting is called "The Old Guitarist," and Picasso painted it in 1903 after his close friend, Casagemas, committed suicide. Compare this painting to Wallace Stevens' poem, "The Man with the Blue Guitar."Stevens writes: "They said, 'You have a blue guitar,/ You do not play things as they are.'/ The man replied, 'Things as they are/ Are changed upon the blue guitar.'" Stevens brings to life through words Picasso's belief that art is the lie that helps us see the truth. Be prepared to encounter a question about these two different artistic representations. (This annotation contains an image)
Paranormal is a term that refers to experiences outside "the range of normal experience or scientific explanation." Therefore, it is not hard to imagine that Oskar would not believe in it because he gravitates towards scientific reasoning.  
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Which statement best characterizes Mr. Black? 
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940) is celebrated as one of the greatest American authors. He is famous for his novels and short stories like The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (This annotation contains an image)
Joseph Conrad’s “Hero’s Journey” consists of twelve steps that a character must go through on his or her journey to heroic status. There are three distinct stages. Part I begins in the Ordinary World. Where does Oskar fall on this timeline? (This annotation contains an image)
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How does Mr. Black make sense of the world around him? 
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Which of the following is NOT a word that Oskar thinks would be on his father’s file card? 
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Each morning Mr. Black hammers a nail into his bed. What does this symbolize? 
Click on the video below to listen to Debussy's song. As you listen, consider what mood the music evokes in you. Why might it be called "Sunken Cathedral"? (This annotation contains a video)
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What is the purpose of the hyperbole in the highlighted text? 
As you listen to the Beatle's song, "Eleanor Rigby," read the lyrics. Why does Oskar refer to this song right now? (This annotation contains a video)
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Each character has lost something in this book. However, Oskar gives back Mr. Black  
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Oskar reveals that he is incredibly angry that his mom was not at home on 9/11. Which statement would not be a reason for his anger? 
Watch the following scene where Oskar has the argument with his mom.  (This annotation contains a video)
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How does Oskar wound his mother? 
Here you see both the words "Extremely" and "Incredibly" which are both part of the title. Think for a moment about how the phrase "INCREDIBLY ALONE" is the opposite of how it is used in the title. In this case it is Oskar's words that make him feel isolated. Yet, it is also the silence that follows his words that now remind him how alone he is. 

My Feelings

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Grandpa takes pictures of everything except 
Oskar's grandmother seems to find a sense of relief in telling her story. Maybe because she finally has an audience in Oskar who is willing to listen to her. She evokes a mood of sadness and compassion in the reader when she shares details like "I told him my eyes were crummy, because I wanted him to pay attention to me." 
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How does the grandma know the grandpa is going to leave her? 
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Summarize what the grandma was like as a girl in comparison with what she is like now. Finally, what do you believe is the cause for why she is the way she is now? 
This is an example of personification because it is giving the human emotion of tears to the book. It serves to create a strong visual of the grief that each feel. 
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What is the primary purpose of the grandma retelling the story of wishing to watch her sister kiss Thomas? 
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What can you infer about the grandma's father? 
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Where do the grandma and grandpa go after they leave the airport together? 
It is clear that the grandpa has left the grandma for good. As a result of this realization, the grandma releases the animals. How might this release symbolize something about the grandma's life? 

Happiness, Happiness

The location of the train station alerts readers that this scene is taking place in Hiroshima, Japan. The first atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945. The city of Nagasaki was bombed on August 9, 1945. Watch this short video that discusses what happened on that infamous day. (This annotation contains a video)
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Which theme is represented by Tomoyasu's highlighted statement? 
This explains why Oskar is always wearing white.  
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Who is Jimmy Snyder? 
Oskar not only gives Mr. Black his hearing back, but his gift suggests that Mr. Black is no longer lost in silence. Instead, Mr. Black now has the ability to find his way. 
Based on Oskar's reaction to the information that Agnes Black worked at Windows of the World and the use of the past tense, a reader knows this information catches Oskar off guard. Based on the name of the restaurant, it may have been at the top of one of the World Trade Center Towers. To confirm this, you will need to continue to read.  
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Oskar believes that  
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What conclusion does Oskar come to about Alice Black's drawings? 
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What does the key symbolize for Oskar? 
The use of the italicized words in this sentence convey Oskar's exasperation. 
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Why does Oskar feel exasperated with Dr. Fein? 
Click on the link below to read Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem called "Grief". As you read the poem, consider which character would most relate to the position of the narrator of this poem. (This annotation contains a link)
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Which character in the novel would most relate to the Barrett's poem's message that "hopeless grief is passionless", and one should "express Grief for thy dead in silence like to death—"? 
Oskar is using lines from the Beatles' song, "Hey Jude", to illustrate his inner turmoil.  
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Oskar's father frequently says, "I don't know" during the fourth message. What is he most likely referring to? 

The Sixth Borough

Readers have read the first paragraph of "The Sixth Borough" in chapter one. However, based on the title of the chapter, one can assume that readers will finally discover what the sixth borough is. As you read, consider why Foer has saved the rest of this flashback until now. 
The image illustrates what a ripple effect looks like in water. (This annotation contains an image)
Originally, the story "The Sixth Borough" appeared in the New York Times prior to Foer's novel being published. Look at the artwork by Geoffrey Grahn below that accompanied the original story. (This annotation contains a link)
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According to Oskar's father, where is the sixth borough now? 
Quiz Two on Chapters Six-Eleven 

My Feelings

Watch the video that explains common ways of structuring pieces of literature. Consider whether or not Foer's method of structuring this text is effective. (This annotation contains a video)
Watch the video tribute that includes pictures and footage from 9/11. It features the song by Alan Jackson.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Why do the grandma and Anna carve their names into the tree? 
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What does the highlighted text mean? 
Each person's fingerprint is unique and is part of one's identity. When the grandma says that her fingerprints collapsed when her childhood home was destroyed, she is essentially saying that she lost her identify.  
This statement is ironic because although it may be beautiful outside, thousands of Americans were about to or had lost their lives in a senseless, violent act of terrorism, including the grandma's only son, Oskar's father. 
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Based on the highlighted text, which would not be something that Oskar was trying to escape in this moment? 
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How does the grandma feel in this moment? 
The image of the scarf growing in length serves as a metaphor for the grandma's grief, worries, and fears. (This annotation contains an image)
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The grandma conveys the horror of what she is experiencing primarily through 
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What is the primary reason that the grandma did not want to go ice skating? 
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What epiphany does the grandma have about life in this moment? 
The following monument is entitled, "Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning" by Spencer Finch, at the National September 11 Memorial Museum.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why might the grandpa have chosen now to apologize? 

Alive and Alone

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What has caused Oskar to feel upset? 
Oskar's imagination takes over, and his fear of losing his grandma feeds nightmares of the many different ways she may have died alone. While Oskar says he is trying to remain optimistic, it is interesting that he says "the pessimistic ones were extremely loud". 
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What is in grandma's drawers? 
The silence creates a barrier, or as Oskar says "an invisible door" between Oskar and the renter (his grandpa). 
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Why does Oskar need his grandmother so desperately?  
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Why is the grandpa's shirt significant? 
The Philippines are located in the South Pacific. (This annotation contains an image)
Here is a short video that will give you some insight into what a Mobius strip is.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What is one unintended effect on Oskar as a result of his quest? 
One motif (a recurring element that has symbolic significance in a piece of literature) is the millimeter in this novel. In the beginning of the novel, Oskar's dad asks him about what will happen if he moves a grain of sand in the Sahara a millimeter. Here, Oskar slows down the horrific scene he is imagining of a plane crashing into the Empire State building and describes what it would be like a millimeter before it happened or changed everything.  
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Which tone is NOT conveyed through the figurative language used in the highlighted text? 
The epic poem, Gilgamesh, is the oldest surviving piece of literature in the world. It tells the story of a ruler whose best friend Enkidu tragically dies. Gilgamesh embarks on a journey to find the secret of immortality. Be prepared to encounter a question about how Gilgamesh relates to this novel. 
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In the following quote from Gilgamesh, Enkidu describes the underworld by saying,  “On entering the House of Dust, everywhere I looked there were royal crowns gathered in heaps, everywhere I listened, it was the bearer of crowns who in the past had ruled the land”. How is the historical context significant when comparing Gilgamesh to Foer's novel? 
Below you will see some of the world's tallest buildings. The light gray building represented the World Trade Center Tower before it was destroyed. The maroon tower is the Empire State Building.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Which detail makes Oskar feel more anxious? 
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What reason does Oskar reveal about why he must find the lock for his Black key? 
Oskar uses italics here to indicate that he is thinking this rather than saying it aloud.  
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Why does Mr. Black take a step towards Ruth Black at the end of this anecdote? 
Oskar continues to use the words of the title of this novel in different combinations. The use of a simile helps the reader to understand grandpa's intensity in this moment. 
Watch the movie version of this scene. Be prepared to compare and contrast the text and the video clip. (This annotation contains a video)
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Compare and contrast the video clip to the text version of Oskar's first meeting with the renter.  
This explains the photo that has been included throughout the novel. Although it is fuzzy, a viewer can make out that is appears to be a body swan-diving from a building. Oskar imagines that this is his father.  
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What is being compared to a fist or flower? 

Why I’m Not Where You Are 9/11/03

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How does the grandma communicate with the grandpa when he first returns? 
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Which piece of textual evidence offers an explanation for the long list of numbers on this page? 
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Thomas conveys through repetition that  
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What can you infer from the highlighted text? 
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The grandma does not want Oskar to know about his grandpa. What compromise do they agree upon? 
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What theme is primarily represented through this scene between the grandma and the grandpa? 
This is ironic because Thomas is unable to speak or declare anything out-loud.  
It is interesting that grandpa is unsure of his role now that he has returned. As you continue to read, look for evidence of whether he is the "prisoner or the guard". 
The grandpa uses hyperbole to show his grief. He recognizes that he, his son, and his grandson are caught in a cycle. Each is on a journey, a search, to discover things about their loved one and to be known. 
In the blink of an eye, or Oskar might say in that millisecond, thousands of lives are changed. Grandpa's description manages to convey how quickly and smoothly the floors fall upon each other. The first tower. Gone.  

A Simple Solution to an Impossible Problem

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Which theme is primarily represented here? 
Although Oskar has suffered from grief and depression throughout the novel, the highlighted passage takes on a dejected and disillusioned tone. 
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Why does Oskar feel such negative feelings towards the phone? 
After 8 months of searching, Oskar admits that he is glad to know that he did fabricate Abby Black's character. He had suspected that she knew something about the key that she wasn't sharing. Oskar is suddenly much closer to his end goal. 
As you continue to read, pay attention to the repetition of this the phrase "incredibly close." What do you believe Foer is trying to say? 
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What does Oskar discover about his mom? 
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Which word best characterizes Oskar at this moment? 
This is another example of part of the title being included in the scenes with Abby and William Black and Oskar. This phrase is more negative than "incredibly close" and serves to build the tension of this scene. 
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What can you infer from the highlighted text? 
William has been looking for the key, and Oskar has been looking for the lock. They have shared a common goal without realizing it.  
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Both William and Oskar lose their dads. What is similar about their experiences? 
At the beginning of the novel, Oskar wondered why his father's tuxedo was laid out in Thomas' closet. Now, Oskar understands that his father was planning on wearing it for his anniversary dinner with his wife.  
Watch this scene where Oskar tells William Black about his dad's messages. (This annotation contains a video)
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In the video clip of this scene, Oskar's dad's message is cut off. At that moment, he sees  
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Which character trait best describes Oskar at the end of this chapter? 
Oskar opens his left hand to signify that he will go. The grandpa's left hand is the one with "yes" tattooed on it. Oskar's grief is too great to bear, and it momentarily silences his voice. If he does not find a way to release his grief, he may end up like his grandfather. 
Consider the significance of this line as you continue to read. How might this line encourage Oskar to take action in his own life? What type of "closed" or "locked" boxes exist in Oskar's life? 

My Feelings

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What does the grandma dream? 
As a reader, we learned earlier in the book from Thomas that the grandma's father commits suicide. During this moment, the grandmother recalls her father being trapped under the ceiling.  
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What do the grandma's actions most likely mean? 
This exchange between the grandma and grandpa reveal how differently they view the same situation. The grandma tends to be more optimistic and appreciative. On the other hand, the grandpa has a decidedly pessimistic outlook that has colored all of his decisions since the tragedy. 
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Which piece of textual evidence does NOT support the reverse dream sequence? 
The grandma and grandpa are at an impasse. They must choose to move forward together, to stay where they are, or to go their separate ways.  
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The highlighted text is a reference or allusion to what literary work? 
The highlighted text is an allusion or reference to Genesis 1:3 in the Bible. (This annotation contains an image)
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What type of figurative language is used in the highlighted text? 

Beautiful and True

The picture below shows a safety net in action. You can infer from Oskar's story that he wishes that his dad had a safety net. This line also suggests that Oskar would prefer "safety nets" through life. The down-side to this is that if he does not take risks, he may end up missing out on life like his grandpa.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What does the millimeter symbolize throughout the book? 
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Why is the picture of the night sky filled with stars  included on the previous page? 
It is significant that Oskar and his father are shoveling in "darkness and silence," because those words characterize the grief they both feel. 
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What is Oskar hoping to find through this experience? What does it teach you about grief? 
Below is a picture of a loupe like Oskar's father would use. (This annotation contains an image)
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What do Oskar and the grandpa fill the coffin with? 
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What conclusion can you draw based on the highlighted text? 
Oskar's quest has led him to William Black, but Oskar is unsatisfied with the discovery of the key and lock because it does not unlock and release his own suffering. The “resurrection” occurs when Oskar and his grandfather dig up the empty coffin. They fill it with letters, and Oskar imagines his father being brought back to life or “resurrected” by imagining everything that happened in reverse.  
Quiz Three: Chapters 12-17