Beyond the Monochrome; Take-Home Assessment
???Generic conventions help readers to make meaning. Discuss the effect of conventions in a text you have studied.??™
???Everything will be OK perfect.???
An expression. A metaphor. A symbol. Five meaningless words.
Our expectations of generic conventions help us to decipher meaning and purpose in texts but the use of unconventional techniques can be just as, if not more, useful for readers to interpret meaning. In Jonathan Safran Foer??™s post-modernist text Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close unconventional techniques are pivotal in the construction of characters, settings and plot-lines. The subjective nature of this text explores the identity of one character in particular, Oskar??™s Grandmother, using what are considered as unconventional styles of writing including letters, stream of consciousness, backwards stream, and the 3 narrative points of view. Through the disconformity to traditional and conventional writing techniques, these writing styles were essential in the construction of the Grandmother, in which I was encouraged to understand how others perceive her, how she deals with greif and what she represents not only within the text but understandings developed about the human condition.
In this post-modernist text, Oskar??™s Grandmother??™s identity is not typically revealed how we would expect it to. We never know her name, her personality traits or her appearance yet she becomes one of the most relatable, heart wrenching characters in the novel. This is portrayed through the three narrative points of view; Thomas senior, Oskar and the Grandmother herself, where we learn about her background, loss and importance. Through the use of these points of view I was encouraged to depict the notion that the Grandmother is defined by others. Through Thomas Senior it can be interpreted that he is a mask over her identity, trying to hide her grief for her beloved sister Anna, also Thomas??™s pregnant girlfriend, who died in the Dresden fire bombings. As Anna makes up a lot of her identity and memories, when she died she took a part of the Grandmother with her. The Grandmother tried to heal this lost identity by trying to relive her life with Thomas. This relationship was held together by the grief for Anna, which is portrayed in the Grandmothers point of view with quotes such as ?????¦he looked at me as he sculpted, but he saw her…???
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It is not only evident that the Grandmother??™s identity is defined by others but also her life was shaped by rules and margins created by others. This is suggested through Thomas and the Grandmothers relationship which ends up being completely categorised into ???something??™ and ???nothing??™ places. This concept explores the idea of ???liminal space??™ which is a very prevalent convention throughout this text. ???…trying, with all of our rules, to make life effortless. But a friction began to arise between Nothing and Something, in the morning the Nothing vase cast a Something shadow…???
Through the use of three narrative points of view in this text I as the reader gained a real understanding about the Grandmothers Identity and why she is seen through the eyes of others throughout the text. This lets us understand the Grandmother on a more emotional level and can begin to create an identity for her based on what they have interpreted in the text. These different perspectives throughout the text are not only a key factor in portraying that the Grandmother??™s identity is defined by others but also what this means. By explaining her experience with grief and loss it can be assumed that this lack of identity is a defensive mechanism in order to cope with her emotional trauma. Part of the human condition is for us to hide ourselves away from the world when experiencing emotional trauma or often change who we are, our identity, in order to try and feel like we are moving on.
Explored above is how others define the Grandmothers identity but we are supposed to recognise that Oskar is the most part of her identity. This is portrayed through narrative points of view; letters to Oskar, dialogue and stream of consciousness. It is enough to care for someone, to love and think of them more than many people in life, ???but how can you say I love you to someone you love??? Everything we find out about the Grandmother revolves around Oskar. Through his point of view we learn about her life, her apartment, what she does, and her thoughts. This is always learned through the eyes of Oskar, whether looking onto her apartment or the dialogue between Oskar and the Grandmother. Through there walkie talkie conversation we get to hear a lot of her thoughts ?????¦when I told her no bad dreams I was talking about her.??? This dialogue could be described as a liminal writing method as they are not talking face to face or not over the phone. ???I hope you never love anything as much as I love you. Over???
Everything we find out about her past, every word the Grandmother writes is for Oskar. In her point of view the Grandmother writes letters to Oskar whether it is to guide him, to explain her love for him, or to explain herself. These letters hold a lot of meaning about the relationship between the Oskar and the Grandmother and also depict that his opinion and perception of her is the only thing that matters to her. ???When I looked at you, my life made sense. Even the bad things.??? Through these letters I also felt her guilt. Guilt she holds for not telling people how she feels and regret for what she never did.
Another unconventional writing technique which symbolises a lot of meaning is the Grandmother??™s use of backwards streaming. This backwards stream of thoughts is an interpretation of showing the Grandmother??™ regret in her life. ???The mistakes I??™ve made are dead to me. But I can??™t take back the things I never did.??? This regret stems off the Grandmothers loss and grief of her family, especially Anna, who she never got to tell how much she loved her. ?????¦in my dream people apologised for all the things that were about to happen, and lit candles by inhaling???
A similar technique to this is the use of Stream of Consciousness throughout the text which helps to construct the personality and thoughts of the Grandmother. One of the most meaningful uses of this is when the Grandmother is retelling 9/11 when she knew her son, Thomas Jr, was going to be killed.
???Planes going into buildings.
Planes going into building.
Through the deconformity to generic conventions this writing style, although simple, created so much impact and emotion towards me and really worked to construct the Grandmothers personality and feelings. This really makes us relate to her as a character and we can almost feel all of the grief and fear for losing another person in the life that she loves through something so horrible; war.
These post-modern conventions; backwards stream and stream of consciousness, create many understandings of the Grandmother also tell us a lot about the human condition. When we experience loss of loved ones we wish it could have been us in that position and we wish time could go backwards. Part of the human condition is to feel a lot of guilt for being alive when loves ones have been killed and also to blame oneself. The stream of consciousness is a very realistic example of the thoughts that would be constantly circling someone??™s mind after tragedy and loss.
This essay has explored how various unconventional techniques have been used in this post-modernist text, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, in the construction of the Grandmother??™s character. The following examples, 3 narrative points of view, dialogue, backwards stream and stream of consciousness, have shown how meaning is created, how this relates to the construction of the Grandmothers identity, and how these understandings represent and relate to the human condition.