Parodies of the Past, Fears of the Future: The Failure and Triumph of Storyline in Don Delillo’s Trauma Narratives

Alaa Alghamdi


Though Don Delillo’s writing spans the period before and after September 11, 2001, consistent themes emerge. Such themes unite an early novel, White Noise, and The Falling Man, one of the definitive American novels about the events and aftermath of 9-11. In each, the characters experience a loss of connection with other people and with the real settings and circumstances of their lives. This leads to a breakdown of journey and storyline, where past and present merge and resolution cannot be reached. The fact that this mentality exists in both narratives, written before and after 9-11, suggests that the tragic events of that day did not create the mental devastation that followed, but that it was pre-existing. In an effort to characterise that state, comparisons are drawn to literary antecedents including Tennyson’s poem “The Lady of Shalott” and the story of the Fall of Man (suggested by the title of Delillo’s novel). In addition, concepts from psychology and philosophy are utilized, including but not limited to psychological and philosophical concepts of repetition, modern ‘simulation theory’ and Gilles Delueze’s observations regarding non-linear time. This paper concludes that the lack of connection with the human, physical and historical worlds brings about an alienation that causes one to predict and even pre-experience trauma, and this ‘pre-traumatic’ state, in turn, prevents connection and perpetuates the very loss that one dreads.


Delillo, White Noise, The Falling Man, 9-11, Traumatic State, Gilles Deleuze

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