Lee is the “Libra” of the novel’s title, the primary character around whom DeLillo builds his plot and its meaning. The astrological sign for the Libran is a pair of scales, a highly appropriate symbol for Lee, who by novel’s end is ready to be tipped either way. Ambivalence has marked much of Lee’s life. An avowed Marxist, he nevertheless joins the U.S. Marines. He longs for life in the Soviet Union, but once there is disappointed and returns to the United States. He admires and identifies with Kennedy, and in his growing delusional state, he believes that assassinating the president will irrevocably complete the identification.
Marguerite Oswald is, next to Lee, the novel’s most compelling character. Even more than Lee, she sets the novel’s tone. She is presented not so much through her actions as through her distinctive manner of speech. She often addresses some ultimate judge (“your honor”) to explain her poverty and her son’s problems. She is both fascinating and repellent; early on, readers sense Lee’s need to escape the manipulative web of words his mother seeks to spin around him.
Conspirators Win Everett, Larry Parmenter, and T. J. Mackey exemplify varying degrees of divergence from the controls of the CIA. Attempting to carry on the work of invasion after the disastrous Bay of Pigs episode, Everett has been found out and banished to Texas Woman’s University, ostensibly to identify potentially friendly...
(The entire section is 446 words.)