Falling Man Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Falling Man.
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Falling Man Summary & Study Guide Description

Falling Man 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 Falling Man by Don Delillo.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Delillo, Don. Falling Man. New York: Scribner, 2007.

The story begins on September 11, 2001. Keith is a lawyer who works in the World Trade Center in New York City. He manages to escape with only minor injuries. He then goes to the apartment of his estranged wife Lianne. Their young son is named Justin. Lianne agrees to let Keith move in with her, and they decide to recommit to their marriage. Two of the friends with whom Keith often plays poker are killed on 9/11. Lianne is a freelance writer and editor. Her father killed himself after he was diagnosed with senile dementia. Lianne volunteers for a group of Alzheimer’s patients; once a week, they meet so that Lianne can guide them through self-expressive writing exercises. Lianne’s mother, Nina, has been dating a European art dealer named Martin for about 20 years.

Keith soon realizes that the briefcase he took with him while evacuating the World Trade Center is not his. He returns it to the rightful owner, a woman named Florence. They discuss their respective experiences of surviving the 9/11 attacks. Justin becomes obsessed with a person whom he calls Bill Lawton; Justin appears to be very afraid of this person. Keith and Lianne eventually realize that the name Bill Lawton is a mishearing of the name bin Laden. The briefly focuses upon a character named Hammad, who was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks. The narrative depicts him during his training as somewhat conflicted about his mission.

Nina, Martin, and Lianne discuss and argue the moral, philosophical and symbolic implications of the 9/11 attacks. Lianne becomes increasingly anxious about the future and her sense of security, and she lashes out at a neighbor, even going so far as to physically strike the neighbor. Keith, who has begun a sexual affair with Florence, experiences a similar episode when he is at a store with Florence. He verbally and physically lashes out at a stranger. Carol is offered a freelance editing assignment for a book about 9/11, and she declines the assignment.

Lianne’s writing group for the Alzheimer’s patients eventually ceases after most of the patients begin to lose their memories. One day, Lianne happens to witness a performance artist known as Falling Man. He jumps from a building while tied to the building with a tether and safety harness. As he falls, he adopts the posture shown by a photograph of a man falling from the World Trade Center on 9/11. The narrative briefly focuses on Hammad in Nokomis, Florida, where he undergoes flight training for his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. The narrative then shifts back to Lianne, who is tested for signs of neurological disorders. The tests show no troubling signs. Lianne’s mother dies soon after.

Keith begins to spend most of his time playing poker in Las Vegas. He makes a consistent but small amount of money. He is drawn to that lifestyle by an internal need for a sense of risk. He returns to New York City occasionally in order to spend time with Lianne and Justin. He has broken off his relationship with Florence. Lianne begins attending church despite a general lack of religious zeal. She enjoys church for its sense of stability and even a type of internal comfort. The novel ends by returning to 9/11. Hammad helps to hijack the first airplane to strike the World Trade Center. Keith evacuates, but not before witnessing the death of one of his friends and work associates.

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