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What role does the relationship between Lianne and her mother and Martin play in...

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peter-shinelly | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 5, 2010 at 8:30 PM via web

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What role does the relationship between Lianne and her mother and Martin play in Falling Man by Don DeLillo?

This question with regard to themes in the novel.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 23, 2011 at 6:11 AM (Answer #1)

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Don DeLillo's novel Falling Man is the story of one man, Keith, who was in one of the towers on September 11, 2001, and survives. He goes home to his wife Lianne, though they had been separated, and his son Justin. We see what happens to them as they work their way through the next days, weeks, months, and years together. This is the primary relationship depicted in the story; however, there are a few others which become important as the story progresses.

Nina is Lianne's mother, and she and Martin have been lovers for about twenty years. Lianne loves her mother and her mother loves Martin, and everything is fine until the attacks on September 11. Martin is out of the country when the event happens, but he flies back to be with Nina as quickly as flights become available because he does love her. What happens, though, is that his sympathies toward the Islamic terrorists cause him to lose his relationship with Nina. This does not happen in one day, of course, but the rift begins a mere day or two after the attacks. Nina has no sympathy for those who murdered innocent people in the name of their God; Martin was once a German terrorist, of sorts, and he understands their anger and hatred and their need to take action for a cause.

Thematically, Martin is nearly the only character who holds any sympathy for the drastic measures to which these people had to go in order to be heard--and it costs him the woman he has loved for many years. Martin's views are equally unacceptable to Lianne; however, she continues to stay in touch with him because he represents a link to her mother--especially a link to the times when her mother was vibrant and alive. Once Nina dies and the memorial service is held, Martin's views are still apparent; Lianne also cuts off any communication with him then.  Martin also speaks for many Europeans who are sick of American domination and are not sorry to see the United States take a hit, a view which did exist in some places after September 11. In this novel, Martin speaks for those who are not emotionally involved and for many non-Americans.

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