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Don DeLillo has stated that his object as a writer is to pay attention to cultural trends in the United States, New York City specifically, and to represent these trends in his writing. This has led critics to characterize him as paranoid, since many of the trends he has followed are pessimistic. For example, DeLillo portrayed the growing American dependence on prescription medication in his novel White Noise. As we considered in class in the context of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, paranoia is a mechanism prehistoric humans developed to keep them alert to danger. It’s part of our survival instinct. In order to defend ourselves against danger, we must first acknowledge that danger exists, and DeLillo’s writing certainly helps identify potential sources of harm. In Falling Man, Keith’s paranoia in the mattress section of the department store alerts him to the men who make fun of Florence and thus present a danger to her.

In fact, DeLillo has become so adept at interpreting and representing cultural trends that he has been able to predict in his writing the course that some of the trends would take in real life. More and more DeLillo critics are recognizing this ability and now hail the author as prophetic. The three times in which the novel exists – the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in which the story is set, several years later when it was written, and the present in which we are reading it – allow us to see how the trends of fear and growing international awareness have developed in the United States since the 9/11 attacks. I understood DeLillo’s description of Justin’s struggle to come to terms with what is going on to foreshadow the challenges that my generation faces in remembering that the U.S. is at war while facing none of the consequences of war in daily life. This contrast is highlighted in The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Changez’s mention of the war preparations he sees while visiting his family in Pakistan. The challenge in looking for prophecy in so recent a work as Falling Man is that we cannot identify it with certainty until after it has come true.

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