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I can’t be the only one who feels sorry for him.  “The kid” is what they call him, and repeatedly. The reader does know that his name is Justin, but this information seems to be tossed in almost as an afterthought on the part of the involved narrator, whether Lianne or Keith.

Lianne mentions her concern for the child as his behavior after the attacks develops into a a quiet, disturbingly warped perception of events — a passive near-paranoia. Yet, reading this, I get the sense that Lianne is disturbed for her own reasons, for the discrepancy between how 9/11 affected her versus how it changed “the kid.”  Perhaps I’m being unfair when I say this, but the rushed manner with which she questions Justin, as well as his young friends, conjures up more of a sense of urgency concerning Lianne’s own need to understand and connect than it does a fear for her son.

Perhaps Lianne’s and Keith’s mutual reference to their offspring “the kid” is simply an additional, subtle commentary by DeLillo on the state of their relationship. “The kid” is impersonal; it is a result.  “The kid” is what happened, and what is still there between them regardless of any other even that takes place in the book. He is something to refer to, yes, but his personality is never exposed by any means but through his own actions and words — never once by how his parents speak of him, or to him.

Maybe it was not always this way.  It is possible that DeLillo intends for the reader to interpret Justin’s painfully impersonal title, tossed around like a hot potato between his parents, as another effect 9/11 had on the family in Falling Man. Either way, I still feel sorry for the kid.

 

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