Oskar Schell – character analysis

Oskar Schell is both a complex and irritating character to interpret. To call him precocious would be a vast understatement – a nine year old boy who’s able to roam the city by himself and who asks questions with such profound depth is difficult to find; in fact, it’s almost unrealistic. Why does Foer assign such abnormal traits to a young boy who undergoes such a normal tragedy? Critics have argued that Oskar relates to all American constituents who lost a loved on on September 11th, but is this really the case? Why is Oskar so different? Rather, is he really all that different? I contend that Oskar, while ostensibly strange and bizarre, is a relatable character on multiple levels.

For one, Oskar like most children (including myself) – imaginative and always concocting inventions in his head. For instance, Oskar imagines a kettle that would sing “Yellow Submarine” in the opening of the novel, and much like Oskar, I was also a kid whose imagination assuaged personal distress. For Oskar, his imagination of things that clearly aren’t real is an escape from what is real – in this case, his father’s death and inevitably, his own death. Haven’t we all resorted to our imaginations during times of tragedy? When my grandmother passed away, I invented a machine in my head that would bring her back to life; a machine that could be used once a year to bring someone back to life – a machine only for me and no one else…and I was 16 at the time. Oskar is only nine, which underscores the relativity of his character. Oskar is inherently a spacey and inquisitive boy who isn’t afraid of his own thoughts. He doesn’t stifle his curiosity in fear of disapproval. He resorts to imagination to abate his agony and he fires away with questions when something doesn’t make sense to him. He doesn’t necessarily think before he asks questions, just like most kids don’t. Oskar is the epitome of an average child in terms of his behavior and in terms of his thoughts. Consequently, Foer creates Oskar in the image of children who had to grow up without a father or a fatherly-figure after 9/11. There is a little bit of Oskar in all of us if we examine closely enough.