September 11, 2001 marked a catastrophic day in United States’ history. Nineteen militants in the terrorist group, Al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger airplanes, crashing two of them into the World Trade Centres in New York City resulting in deaths of over 3,000 innocent people (9/11). The aftermath and the coping of the citizens of New York City set as the backdrop of the novel, Falling Man written by Don DeLillo. As a native New Yorker, DeLillo has made references to the World Trade Centres in his previously written novels such as Americana, Player, Mao II, and Underworld (Conte 562). Falling Man introduces the reader to the family of Keith Glenn, a survivor of the World Trade Centres, Lianne Glenn, spouse of Keith, and their son, Justin. Lianne suffers her life with post traumatic stress disorder, having a constant fear of death after her father’s suicide. She becomes desperate to survive amidst the deaths of the victims of September 11; consequently she fears over a slow painful death, resembling the Alzheimer’s patients she manages over. At the start of the novel, Lianne questions her faith and struggles to deal with death; however with her affiliation to God and the fraternity built among the Alzheimer’s patients, she is able to overcome her ambiguity of life and death. The significant event concerning death in Lianne’s life is the suicide of her father, Jack Glenn; causing her diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress. The National Institute of Mental Health defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as “an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event”. Jack shoots himself after finding out he was diagnosed with Senile Dementia, a degenerative disease, causing the death of brain cells (Dementia). After her father’s death in northern New Hampshire, Lianne recalls past memories with him as a last resort for her to remember his existence. Throughout the novel, Lianne’s repentance is reflected off of the fact that she was not able to spend much time with her father due to the lack of propinquity. While Lianne was watching the World Trade Centres fall, she, ‘“… thought he [Keith] was dead”’ (DeLillo 11). Lianne fears Justin will end up like her in an exclusive lifestyle of constant fear. Fortunately, Keith survives the terrorist attacks and Lianne welcomes Keith back home to live as a family once again. Later, Lianne asks Keith why he came to her house. She interrogates Keith in a way hoping for an answer that will help her revitalise the bond they used to have. Lianne realises in order to pull through rough times, a family is necessary despite her mother, Nina’s opposition. Lianne’s storyline sessions attended by the men and women in the early stages of Alzheimer’s diseases revolve around a central theme, memory. The attendees write about their feelings and memories, scratching off small bits of their dying memory. Lianne’s dependence on the Alzheimer’s patients correlates with how she dealt with her father’s death. One common human aspect that is shared among all the attendees at the storyline sessions is the attempt to try to hold on to their past memories. For example, Lianne compares the rifle she hunted varmints and the rifle Jack used to shoot himself. She attempts to engrave his death through words such as “muzzle blast” and tells, “… herself he’d [Jack] had done a brave thing” (DeLillo 41). Lianne depends on the Alzheimer’s patients in order to think in her father’s shoes when he shot himself. At first, Lianne is jealous of the Alzheimer’s patients because they are able to eventually forget painful memories and experiences. However, as time passes, Lianne starts to move away from her fear of dying off of depression and memory loss realising the joy of living the moment. Towards the end of the novel, she finds herself wanting to talk about her experiences and felt a need for them to listen. By the end of the novel, Lianne is able to live in tranquillity through the...
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