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The Novel “Falling Man” by Don DeLillo

The novel Falling Man by Don DeLillo is a story about a man who survived the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The novel’s plot focuses on the life and relationships of Keith, the main character, who was working in one of the towers and managed to escape the building. He then recovers from physical and psychological stress, tries to mend relationships with his family, begins an affair with his mistress, abandons family life, and decides to travel by participating in poker tournaments. The brightest excerpt of the novel is presented at the end, where the author describes in vivid detail how Keith escapes the building that is going to fall.

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This passage is written in dry but emotional language that conveys the shock Keith feels about what is happening. The passage begins by describing how the “paper flies down the hallway”; Keith then sees “a woman with a small tricycle” and starts down the stairs, somewhat dazed. He feels the sharp pain that his skin is experiencing because of the rising concrete dust and pain in his eyes; visions begin, from time to time, he stops and looks at one point, as if half asleep.

Keith then smells a “weird smell” and realizes that it is his smell from the mingling of fear, sweat, and dust. He sees other people and observes how they react to the situation, being partly conscious and partly as if not present in his body. Keith loses his sense of time and hears voices, deep and low, advising to “bring down things” that other people have forgotten. Together with the crowd, he descends to the concourse level and then comes out into the street. He sees that the tower is falling; then he feels the “windblast that sends people to the ground” as the tower falls.

Still, Keith goes on moving; he sees people running past him and sees “everything falling away from him,” disintegrating from the surrounding reality. Finally, he sees a “shirt that falls from the sky.” The described passage presents the feeling of shock and disintegration as Keith fails to accept what is happening, being shocked by fear and pity for the people who have died. The author masterfully conveys the atmosphere of what is happening, presenting a reportage of events that have become one of the most significant tragedies in US history.

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