Cosmopolis Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Cosmopolis.
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Cosmopolis Summary & Study Guide Description

Cosmopolis Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Cosmopolis by Don Delillo.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: DeLillo, Don. Cosmopolis. Scribner, 2004.

Cosmopolis takes place in New York City over the course of a single day in April in the year 2000. The novel is written in third-person past tense and follows Eric Packer, the 28-year-old founder and head of a large financial firm called Packer Capital. In the morning, after a sleepless night, Eric decides that he wants a haircut. He goes to his limousine, accompanied by Torval, his chief of security. The traffic is slow, and he performs his work from computers in his limousine. In the limo, he meets with his chief of technology, a man named Shiner. Shiner, unsettlingly, expresses vague yet profound doubts about his life and work. Eric’s wife, poet and heiress Elise Shifrin, happens to walk by the limousine, and they have breakfast together. They are recently married, and their relationship appears characterized by a certain amount of emotional distance. When Eric returns to his car, he learns that the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Arthur Rapp, was murdered on live television by an unknown assailant. Eric is frustrated by his inability to predict the value of the Japanese yen, which continues to rise in value despite expectations. Eric makes trading strategies around the idea that the value of the yen will drop imminently.

The next people to meet Eric in his car are Eric’s chief of finance—Jane Melman—and his physician—Dr. Ingram. While Ingram performs a medical exam on Eric, Eric and Jane discuss the problem of the yen. Jane encourages Eric to change his strategy and accept a loss. However, the meeting is sidetracked by a strong sexual attraction between Eric and Jane. After the medical exam, Ingram says that Eric’s prostate is asymmetrical. The narrative then shifts to a diary entry written by a man called Benno Levin. Levin appears to be a former employee of Packer Capital, and he is now living in an abandoned apartment and is planning to kill Eric. The narrative then transitions back to Eric. He has lunch with his wife, Elise Shifrin, when suddenly, a group of protesters burst in and throw live rats into the restaurant. Eric returns to his limousine and has a meeting there with Vija Kinski, his chief of theory. Vija says that Eric should not alter his strategy regarding the yen, as it would be inauthentic and untrue to his own identity. Vija also says that there is no true order to the universe, but Eric does not wish to accept this idea. The streets soon fill with protesters, who appear to be protesting capitalism. Vija is dismissive towards the protesters, but Eric appears to be intrigued by them. Eric buys as much yen as possible, suddenly gripped by the urge to sabotage the global markets

After the protesters and Vija leave, Torval informs Eric that there has been a credible anonymous threat on Eric’s life. They add another bodyguard to Eric’s security detail, and Eric has dinner with his wife, Elise. Eric admits that his personal fortune is in ruins and that there has been a credible threat on his life. He says that it makes him feel free. However, Elise says that she sees their relationship as essentially finished. After dinner, Eric hacks into Elise’s personal fortune and destroys it. He then goes to a night club briefly before seeing a funeral procession on the streets. He learns that it is a funeral procession for his favorite rapper, Brutha Fez, who had very recently died of heart failure. After watching the procession for a while, Eric returns to his limousine, but before he can enter it, a performance artist named André Petrescu rushes up to Eric and throws a pie in his face. A little later, Eric speaks to Torval alone and asks to see Torval’s gun. Eric kills Torval with the gun and then throws the gun into the nearby bushes.

Eric then rides in the limousine to the barbershop. The driver, Ibrahim, accompanies him inside the barbershop. Partway through the haircut, Eric is seized with the urge to leave, so he does, taking with him a gun owned by the barber. Eric then comes across of a group of film extras lying on the ground pretending to be dead bodies One of them is Elise, and Eric and Elise go have sex together in an alley. A little later, Eric is fired upon from the window of an abandoned apartment building. He goes inside and finds Benno Levin, whose real name is Richard Sheets. Levin explains that he was fired from Packer Capital after the work lost all meaning for him. He says that he wishes to kill Eric as a way of striking back against the capitalist system. Eric, however, is unconvinced and believes Sheets to merely be motivated by mental disturbances. Eric encourages Sheets to kill him, and at the end of the novel, it is ambiguous whether Eric is alive or dead.

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