How does Falling Man by Don DeLillo describe the way America and the American public's lives changed after 9/11?

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The attacks of 9/11 resulted in feelings of dislocation and disorientation for the American public at large. A focal point of American society had suddenly vanished from the New York skyline, and the country was overwhelmed by fear and disquiet. Delillo's two main characters in Falling Man, Keith and his estranged wife, Lianne, illustrate the effects of the tragedy.

After Keith's escape from the falling towers, he neither returns to his home nor seeks medical assistance. Rather, he stumbles, disoriented and wounded, through the streets of Manhattan, seeking out Lianne's apartment. His actions are both irrational and symbolic of the un-anchoring from past certainties experienced by the nation as a whole. He never returns to his former way of life. In this way, he echoes the sense of many Americans that things had changed forever on that day.

Lianne also reacts in ways she wouldn't have before the events of 9/11. She suffers a panic attack and flees through the streets until she can run no farther. She also reacts with uncharacteristic harshness when she discovers that her son has incorporated the terrorist he calls Bill Lawton into his play.

America did change that day, and the effects linger in both domestic and foreign policy. There seems to be no end to 9/11, just as Delillo depicts the plunge of the Falling Man as never-ending.

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In 2007, American novelist Don DeLillo wrote Falling Man. The novel explores the enduring effects on both individuals and on American society as a whole following the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

The protagonist is Keith Neudecker. Keith escapes from the World Trade Center during the attacks and following a recovery period, attempts to repair his relationship and domestic lifestyle with his estranged wife, Lianne, while simultaneously starting a relationship with another survivor, Florence.

Following 9/11, an incredible tide of American nationalism rose. With this rise also came a rise in Islamophobia as Americans conflated the violent religious extremists with all Muslims and, by extension, all Arabic and Middle Eastern people. This theme is depicted in the novel when Lianne becomes angry when a neighbor plays music she believes to be Middle Eastern.

The attacks also caused an evaluation of lifestyles. Many Americans were content before the attacks with their normal office jobs. The attacks provided a wakeup call as people perceived the fragility of life and desired to pursue their passions versus pursuing a boring office lifestyle. Keith had trouble returning to work and instead begins touring the world as a professional poker player. Poker was a weekly pastime for Keith previously, but he now understands how quickly life can be taken.

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I would want to respond to this question by focusing on the way in which the various characters change in their thoughts regarding death after 9/11. Let us remember that the author is using these characters to present America as a whole, and so examining their changes can reveal the changes that DeLillo believes occurred in America as a whole.

Keith, for example, is haunted by the image of death. This is something that other survivors experience as well. Keith moves from a fear of death to a philosophical pondering about the meaning of life. It is clear that after the destruction, Keith enters a different world, and with his new knowledge and experience, he feels isolated and misunderstood by those around him, even his wife. Keith is now shown to occupy a strange existence in a kind of limbo that separates him from other humans. He has become aware of his own inherent fragility and has been profoundly changed and humbled by his experience.

Perhaps we can therefore use Keith to comment on the way that DeLillo believes America, post-9/11, changed. America suddenly was forced to realise how vulnerable it was, and it changed forever, trying to process the terrorist attack that struck at its very heart and finding itself asking big questions about life and death that it had never had to do before.

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