Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 256
Libra is American author Don DeLillo's 1988 novel chronicling a semi-fictionalized, or speculative, history of the assassination of US president John Kennedy based on the life story of the gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.
In the novel, Oswald is depicted as an outcast and loner whose politically eccentric beliefs leave him on the fringes of society, unable to fit in. Oswald also is portrayed as self-aware of his minor station, but yearning to achieve something greater. Early in the book, DeLillo uses the third-person narrative to describe Lee's ambitions measured against his reality as a "runner":
The less important you are in an office, the more they expect the happy smile.
After Oswald is arrested, he reflects on the meaning of his confinement and how it juxtaposes against his worldview in which raw power is used to control and subjugate:
A cell is the basic state, the crude truth of the world.
This end-state for Oswald is somewhat ironic, as earlier, he had considered that there was always a penultimate outlet to equality:
God made big people. And God made little people. But Colt made the .45 to even things up.
Ultimately, Libra is a story about hidden agendas and stories that seem obvious but contain a history and complexity of which none of us are aware. Several quotes throughout the novel are used to drive this point home:
There is a world inside the world. . . .
There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of the things they aren't telling us.