Everything is Illuminated-Jonathan Safran Foer
Introduction – The consequences of the grandparents' silence
Many people have to bear heavy psychological burdens from the second world war without talking to anybody about their experiences. Because of the terrible war-experiences many of these people have a stubborn point of view, a total indifference towards new subjects and an incomprehensible behavior (cf. Bode 18). Moreover many “war-grandchildren” indicate huge problems with their parents and / or grandparents (cf. Bode 13). Furthermore many “war-grandchildren” tell about an uncertain awareness of life and their general lack of assurance (cf. Bode 13). The sentence “My own parents don't know who I really am” is not a rare occurrence (cf. Bode 17). Lots of these people are looking for the trails of their families' past and therefore try to research on their own behavior (cf. Bode 14). Dealing with the past and self-discovery are the main themes of the book “Everything is Illuminated” from Jonathan Safran Foer. A following Analysis and Interpretation will show the process of coming to terms with the past and the self-discovery of the protagonists Jonathan Safran Foer, Alexander Perchow and his grandfather.
The heavy search
The following quotation from Cicero goes in line with Alex's and Jonathan's point of view. “Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever“. Jonathan, an American Jew, goes in quest of a woman, Augustine, who apparently saved his grandfather in the second world war from the Nazis. Jonathan particularly wants to find the small Jewish village Trachimbrod where the whole story of his family started. This search ends up in the Ukraine. With the help of the Russian interpreter Alex and his grandfather he wants to discover the history of his family. Pilgrimage is a centuries-old tradition and an important possibility of looking for one's roots and for one's self-discovery (cf. Vökler). Jonathan takes a photo with him depicting his grandfather and a young woman (the woman who rescued him from the Nazis). The idea of his grandfather loving this young woman seems incredible to him, because he can't imagine that his grandfather loved other women than his grandmother. “It seems so improbable that he could have loved her. But isn't there something strange about the picture, the closeness between them, even though they're not looking at each other? The way that they aren't looking at each other. The distance” (Everything is Illuminated 61). “Part of me wants him to have loved her, and part of me hates to think it” (Everything is Illuminated 61). Jonathan notes everything in his diary he experiences during the journey. He points out that putting his thoughts down in writing releases him (cf. Vökler). Alex tells that the less they see on the journey, the more he writes down (cf. Everything is Illuminated 115). This is also for coming to terms with the past and for his self-discovery, he wants to capture every little experience of this voyage to get closer to his past and to get enough subjects for his story about his ancestors, that he writes after the journey.
Jonathan is a very dissatisfied person, he is dissatisfied with himself. This arises when Alex says that there is a darkness in Jonathan's laugh and when they both talk about their future (cf. Everything is Illuminated 69). When Alex says to Jonathan that he's a writer, he denies it at first, furthermore Jonathan doesn't want to admit that he has already published books (cf. Everything is Illuminated 69). The following dialog between Alex and Jonathan proves that Jonathan is everything else but self-satisfied. “I would love very much to read your stories.” “You probably won't like them.” “Why do you say that?” “I don't even like them.” (Everything is Illuminated 69). When Alex asks him for the reason of his writing, Jonathan answers that he used to think he was born to write but in the same moment he denies it...
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