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Hung Up

It’s a little bit funny that half of the title of Don DeLillo’s novel is the word “Man,” considering that the reader is not given any incredibly deep insight into the life of any man depicted in the book.  What’s more, the character whose relationship with the Falling Man is the most thorough and valid is also the female main character, Lianne.

Of course, the title “Falling Man” could easily apply to Keith, collaborating on his development as an emotionally distant character. Yet, none of the characters are utterly complete in this way, and it is Keith’s wife who literally experiences the work of the Falling Man, and she does so in a way that is remarkably insular.  It was not until the end of the novel that it truly occurred to me how private Lianne’s experience with the Falling Man truly is.

“She came across the obituary late one night, looking at a newspaper that was six days old.” 219

Even her discovery and understanding of the death of Falling Man, David Janiak, could hardly be more private.  She lies alone in a dark bed, discovering days after the fact that this figure, suspended in her life and her psyche as a symbol of and a connection to the tragic event her husband witnessed first-hand, has died inexplicably.

This discovery comes three years after the scenes at the beginning of Falling Man, a time when the various characters are still lost, maybe even drifting still farther from one another.  It seems unlikely to be a coincidence that Lianne decides soon after reading the obituary that she is “ready to be alone, she and the kid, the way they were before the planes appeared that day, silver crossing blue.” 236

Although she professes not to understand the man himself, his importance is signified by a multitude of scenes and references, not to mention the title of the book.  Whenever he is seen, he is suspended.  He is not falling, but unmoving, swaying, and stuck.  He is harnessed.  Again, it is hard not to credit DeLillo with the intention of superimposing these qualities of the Falling Man over the other characters in the story as well.  And it is true: they aren’t so much falling as they are spinning uselessly on cords, never making the progress needed to be even remotely happy.  It is not until the life of the Falling Man itself is cut that Lianne realizes the need for her own to be severed; the two had become intertwined. This does imply that she is now falling, but perhaps that is not as negative as one might initially assume; it is action, movement.




One Response to “Hung Up”

  1. gallagher15 says:

    I really liked your explanation of the connection between Lianne and the Falling Man. I also think DeLillo uses the imagery of that famous photograph from 9/11. It is never directly stated or mentioned, but is subtly implied through the use of the performance artist.