Home > Questions for Discussing These Works > Don DeLillo, Falling Man Discussion Questions

Don DeLillo, Falling Man Discussion Questions

1. In “Baader-Meinhof,” Falling Man, and Point Omega, DeLillo repeatedly depicts characters that are watchful—vigilant, in fact.  There are numerous scenes of characters keeping vigil, often at scenes of art but also for the dead (Nina’s wake).  In Falling Man, Justin vigilantly scans the skies for “Bill Lawton.”  How does DeLillo conceptualize “watchfulness?” How does he distinguish between “watchfulness” and paranoia?

2. Falling Man describes numerous scenes of re-appropriation.  Keith re-appropriates the briefcase, DeLillo re-appropriates Richard Drew’s photograph, Falling Man (the character) as well re-appropriates the famous image.  What is the significance of re-appropriation?

3. Why does Justin speak in monosyllables?

4. DeLillo’s fiction has long been interested in “the massive”—mass culture, mass consumerism, mass ritual (opening scene Mao II).  In Falling Man, DeLillo depicts massive crowds, looming towers, vast skylines (see below).  What do such depictions of immensity do?

“The mass of the towers filled the frame of the picture.  The man falling, the towers contiguous . . . behind him. The enormous soaring lines, the vertical column stripes. The man with blood on his shirt . . . and the effect of the columns behind him” (221). 

"Lianne was paralyzed by “the mass, the immensity of it” (221). 

5. Martin instructs Lianne to view art scientifically: “Stand apart.  See things clinically, unemotionally . . . Measure the elements” (Falling Man 140).  But this approach fails.  Rather than “stand apart,” Lianne becomes one with art—viewing David Janiak dangling from a rope, “she was passing beyond pleasure into some kind of assimilation.  She was trying to absorb what she saw, take it home, wrap it around her, sleep in it.  There was so much to see.  Turn it into living tissue, who you are” (210, emphasis mine).  This passage recalls earlier description of “organic shrapnel" (16) and scenes from “Ruins” essay.  What is the significance of absorption?

6. How/why does Falling Man distinguish between voluntary memory and involuntary memory? Between conscious cognition and non-conscious cognition (affective or material experience)?