Aug 20 2018

Why do We want Others to Change?

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As mentioned in a previous post, Foer recurring incorporates the theme of group influence into Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Using the relationship between Oskar’s grandparents for example, Foer, when portraying Grandma, says, “He [Thomas Schell] was sculpting me so that he could fall in love with me”. Foer uses the comparison of Grandma to a piece of art to convey to the reader that people sometimes view others as a piece of work that can be created and altered to be seen as “fit” to particular people or in certain situations. Schell had been in love with Anna, and therefore wanted to see her perfections in someone else.

The comparison Foer made between Grandma and a sculpture made me question, how often people ask or urge others to change to fit what one individual sees as the proper image or “perfect”. Foer effectively brings this revelation to his audience’s attention and also allows conversation to be brought up regarding how often people willingly change to fit another’s “perfect” image.

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Aug 20 2018

Acting Out

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I feel for Oskar early in the book once his father dies. His mother finds comfort in another man while Oskar feels left behind and alone. I understand his mother wants to feel needed by another male figure being a newfound widow, but neglecting your own child to fill a void that will close in time brothers me a ton. When Oskar broke the lamp, he was both relieved and his upset that his mother didn’t come to him. He was glad because he didn’t get scolded but upset because he felt that his mother no longer cared for his well being, He begins to inflict bruises on himself as a way to take away emotional pain.
This struck me really hard because he’s so young, all he wants is to be nurtured and loved so he acts out hoping his mother will notice but alas to no avail.

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Aug 20 2018

Do We Run when We Know Someone knows Us too Well?

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In, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Foer includes Thomas Schell, Oskar’s Grandpa, as the third narrator. While Schell is unable to verbally speak, the audience is able to get to know him through his unwritten letters and Oskar’s descriptions. In one of Schell’s letters, Foer mentions Schell’s marriage to Oskar’s grandma and suggests that the marriage worked because “…she [Oskar’s Grandma] never had to know me”. Foer’s reveal of the lack of intimacy within the marriage indicates to the audience that perhaps relationships such as the one shared between Oskar’s grandparents, may occur more often than recognized. Humans often push people away due to their underlying fear of being hurt or rejected, or because he or she believes they do not deserve the happiness that comes along with the affection and attention. Schell’s first love, Anna, died previously along with their unborn child. An event as tragic as such could easily lead Schell to believe he does not deserve to be happy if Anna can not be happy with him. Despite Grandma’s willingness to forget the past, Schell is unable to overlook it and instead punishes both himself and Grandma by living a marriage simply for the companionship rather than the feeling of love or intimacy. However, interestingly enough, the companionship does not withstand long either as the couple gradually places more and more space and privacy between themselves.

Foer  reveals to his audience that it is quite simple to push someone away when the connection is weak or the relationship does not contain strong intimacy, however once a relationship crosses the border of simple acquaintanceship, it may be harder to erase the past.

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Aug 20 2018

Mental Adaptation

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A psychological concept I heard about recently called the Hedonic Treadmill is very interesting to me, and I noticed it appear in The Handmaid’s Tale. According to Wikipedia, the Hedonic Treadmill is a phenomenon where people will “return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes,” and readers see this occur in the handmaids, and everyone else in Gilead.

Besides some suicides and things of that nature when the government began taking over, eventually the people of Gilead stabilized, and people learned to live with the new rules of the government. Offred, through keeping a firm grasp on the past and having hope, is able to stay somewhat calm and collected throughout the story, and she is able to survive because of this.

I just find it very interesting that this concept is somewhat connected to the human condition, how the brain – no matter who you are or what your situation is, can eventually learn to cope and ensure survival. Offred and other handmaids may not be in good situations, but despite all that their brains are still able to make them survive and maintain a small amount of stability in their brains. This was a very interesting concept and connection to me.

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Aug 20 2018

Opinions

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“If you don’t tell me anything, how could I ever be right?” “Another way of looking at it, is how could you ever be wrong?”

One of the greatest obstacles towards self-acceptance that humans face is the continuous concern with other’s opinions about them. Foer introduces the concept of self-consciousness early in the book on page 9, as revealed by the quote included above. Psychology often looks at the evolution of group inclusion as a means of survival towards what is now a threat both emotionally and physically, and Foer indicates that Oskar’s father caught on to the notion that group inclusion can damage an individual and lead them inhibit their own choices. Rather than set Oskar in a specific direction following what Oskar’s father believes, Oskar is instead urged to follow his own path and ultimately create his own story.

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Aug 20 2018

Stephen Hawking’s Response

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In my mind, one of the most important moments in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close comes right after Oskar discovers that the key has almost nothing to do with his father at all. Oskar finally receives a response from Stephen Hawking, whom he periodically wrote to throughout the book. This moment comes right after one of the most dramatic, pivotal moments of the whole story, where we learn that Oskar’s whole journey was pointless. Or so it seemed. Oskar’s story, and his dedication to unearthing what he believed to be a clue about the final mystery his father left him, led him to reach out to many people in many different ways. For most of them, Oskar confronts them face to face for information and help on his task, however, Stephen Hawking is different. We can safely assume that Stephen Hawking is an important idol of Oskar’s, so communicating with him and pretending that the interest is mutual seems to be a coping mechanism. Maybe Oskar relied on the hope of being noticed subconsciously, when times got particularly tough. Or maybe he took comfort in sharing so much of himself and his struggles with someone so important to him, and feeling close for at least a few minutes.

Stephen Hawking’s return letter, the true response, arrives at a very convenient, useful time. Oskar is feeling defeated and extremely upset. He makes plans to dig up his father’s empty grave, to move on, finally. The letter fromHawking surely provided some comfort, r maybe even just enough hope or strength to carry him into the present, away from September 11th. This important beacon is seemingly glossed over, but the more I think about it, the more I realize how very subtle the effect of this happening would seem in the face of what Oskar had just discovered about the key and it’s effects on him.

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Aug 20 2018

Brainwashing

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The strongest method of gaining and maintaining power I noticed in Gilead was through brainwashing and reteaching, and I was really interested by this concept.

The most fascinating part of this concept was the connections it has to other dystopian works of fiction, and horrific real life events. I saw many parallels in how the government in A Brave New World, and Hitler in Nazi Germany, were able to rise to power and stay at the top for so long. In Brave New World, they played subliminal messages to children in their sleep, to make sure they learn and hold closely the ideals instilled into their heads, and Hitler was able to instill his ideals into his people through his powerful persuasion and public speaking skills. What these leaders did wasn’t simply telling people an idea, leaving it up for debate to the followers, the power in their methods was in how believers took their messages as basic, core ideals their daily lives continued to follow. It’s similar to how people with ideals and core beliefs of being kind to people will live their lives always trying to do acts of kindness for others, how everyday they live and stand up for what they believe in. For positive ideas and messages, this is a good thing, but for the leaders of these horrifying governments it was an easy, passive way to gain unwaveringly loyal followers, and ensure they never stray from their leader’s rule.

An example of this I saw in The Handmaid’s Tale was in pages 71-73, where Janine is sharing the story of how she was “gang-raped at fourteen and had an abortion.” Because of the reteaching the handmaids had by the Aunts, they all believe in their core ideals that the trauma Janine endured was “her fault, her fault, her fault,” and they in turn torment her and make her cry. After being ostracized by her fellow handmaids, Janine then starts to believe for herself that it was her fault, that she led her attackers on. This is just one example out of many in where the government of Gilead gains one more loyal follower, poisons them with their disgusting morals, and will keep them as a very, very loyal follower.

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Aug 20 2018

Dehumanization

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Most of the women in The Haidmaid’s Tale had lives before the Gilead. How long does a person need to be dehumanized before they truly become brainwashed into believing they are nothing more than an object? All of the women’s names are constant reminders that they are nothing but objects/property. Offred : Of Fred, Ofglen, Of Glen.
In one of Offred’s baths, she felt extremely exposed. She couldn’t believe that she used to wear bathing suits and allow everyone to see her legs, thighs, stomach, butt, etc since she has become accustomed to a limited amount of people seeing her body. Even though she has a strong mentality to survive the Gilead, readers can still see traces of brain washing due to how long she’s struggled in her situation. She used to think that her body as an “instrument, of pleasure or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will,” now she hates getting period every month as it is a “sign of failure.” I feel for the women, especially for those who have lost hope in ever seeing those who meant a lot to them. Even though it seems like a long shot, I think they should still hold onto their past in order to survive the present.

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Aug 20 2018

Sympathy or Sexual Frustration?

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As I was reading Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I kept thinking about the doctor from chapter 11. Every month women, escorted by Guardians, go see a doctor. On Offred’s visits, no chitchat happens or any eye contact is made. On this visit, the doctor talks happily with Offred, even calling her “honey” after probing her to look for physical issues. The doctor tells Offred he could help her. I don’t think Offred is naive, but she’s certainly afraid of what the doctor’s implications are so she asks him to explain anyway. He says he wants to help impregnate her, and that he’s helped women before her. Deeper into the chapter, Offred describes the doctor’s eyes as “moist with compassion,” but I think she’s mistaking lust and sexual desire for something else. Does she really believe the doctor is being altruistic?

Never the less, she rejects his offer out of fear for her own safety. Earlier in the book, Offred made eye contact with a young man in order to help said man because she knows they are sexually frustrated. I see where she draws the line where in breaking rules but the doctor could possibly save her since she’s getting older and hasn’t been impregnated yet.

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Aug 20 2018

Companion

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In Jonathan’s Foer’s book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Oskar is on a quest and meets his upstairs neighbor. There he finds a trusted companion to assist him. Throughout their journey they form a tight bond and Oskar finds someone who he can trust and talk to, without the pressure of his family or schoolmates. Mr.Black is a key character because of how much time he put into Oskar. After they met and started seeing each other, Oskar opened his mind to new experiences that he would not have done otherwise. For example when they wanted to go across town they needed to take the subway, which Oskar was previously afraid of. Another time is when they both went up the Empire State Building, they had to take an elevator. Oskar had associated elevators with his father’s death and going up a tall building was a traumatic experience. Without Mr.Black he wouldn’t be able to face his fears and move on.

However if Oskar had experienced the elevator or the subway with his Mother or Grandmother it would have been different. Mr.Black and his fear’s were apart of his quest for his father and so he felt more comfortable with him and most importantly safe.

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