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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Libra, written by Don DeLillo, was first published in 1988. This story is about the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy, and it blends reality with fiction.

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This novel discusses the events that helped shape the assassination on November 22, 1963. This story describes Oswald's life as a young boy, as an adolescent in the Marine Corps, his marriage, and his role in Kennedy's assassination.

DeLillo claims that the assassination attempt made on Kennedy was in fact a plot by the CIA in order to convince the government to declare a war on Cuba. To do this, he introduces a character named Nicholas Branch, a CIA chronicler.

In the novel, Oswald is portrayed as an odd man with dyslexia. DeLillo describes Oswald as a complicated man who readers can easily identify with. For example, in the novel Oswald is loving towards his wife and children but also beats his own wife and disrespects his mother.

DeLillo also introduces other men involved in the assassination attempt: Win Everett, Lawrence Parmenter, and Guy Banister.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 844

Libra is Don DeLillo’s fictional re-creation of the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, and of the conspiracy that many believe lay behind the assassination.

DeLillo has woven his novel from three major strands. The first is the story of Oswald himself, from his childhood in New York City until his death at the hands of Jack Ruby. The second strand follows the growth of a conspiracy to commit some act that will focus the anger of the U.S. government on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The plot is originally intended to fail; as DeLillo notes, however, “There is a tendency of plots to move toward death.” In the third and simplest strand of the novel, retired CIA analyst Nicholas Branch is trying years later to write a classified history of what took place.

As Libra opens, young Lee Harvey Oswald is living in the Bronx with his widowed mother, Marguerite Oswald. Her efforts at finding another husband have failed, as have her attempts to make a home with relatives. In what will become a familiar pattern, Lee and his mother always seem to be on the move to increasingly cheaper apartments. Eventually, mother and son return to New Orleans. Lee was born there, and Marguerite’s sister still lives there, but once again there seems to be no home for them. Along the way, Lee discovers Marxism, which offers him an explanation for his marginalized situation in society, but he also enlists in the Marines. He is assigned to Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan, from which U2 spy flights are launched over the Soviet Union. In Japan, he also begins an affair and makes contact with Soviet agents, expressing his belief in Marxism and offering to defect.

When he learns that his unit is scheduled to leave Japan, Lee shoots himself in the arm in a vain attempt to remain behind. A second incident—a fight with a sergeant—earns him a court martial and a brief sentence in the brig.

When Marguerite suffers a minor accident, Lee secures an early separation from the Marines. Rather than take care of his mother, however, he travels to the Soviet Union to defect. There, he marries but fails to find a meaningful role. Repeating the pattern established in his youth, he returns to the United States only to pass through a series of dead-end jobs. He becomes obsessed with making a place for himself and becoming a part of history. His attempt to assassinate right-wing General Edwin A. Walker fails, but he attracts the attention of conspirators plotting a far more important crime. The group needs a patsy with ties to the Communist world, and Oswald seems made for their purposes.

The conspirators are Win Everett, Larry Parmenter,...

(The entire section contains 1020 words.)

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