The Names Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 39 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Names.
This section contains 522 words
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The Names Summary & Study Guide Description

The Names 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 Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Names by Don Delillo.

The Names by Don DeLillo is a spiritual thriller that follows an American businessman, James Axton, as he becomes embroiled in a string of ritual murders in Greece and the Middle East. The book is a tragicomic meditation on the changing political and spiritual landscape of the international community at the beginning of the 1980s.

The Island, the novel's first book, begins with James living in Athens and working in the Greek-Turkish region as a risk analyst for the amorphous Northeast Group. A former writer, he chose this post to be close to his son Tap and his estranged wife Kathryn, who works on an archeological dig on the Greek island of Kouros. He maintains a group of American friends in Athens, most of them international envoys for American businesses. Also connected to this group is a mysterious, belligerent Greek called Eliades.

One day, the body of a mental defective is found bludgeoned to death in Kouros. Owen Brademas, the sullen leader of Kathyn's dig, thinks it may be connected to a group of transients he met near a monastery who were obsessed with ancient languages. Tap is in the process of writing a fictional story of Owen's life. Owen, Kathryn, and James begin to suspect this murder was some sort of religious ceremony. The Island ends with the painful revelation that Kathryn is accepting a job in Canada, ending any hope of reconciliation with James.

In the second book, James meets with an old friend, the filmmaker Frank Volterra. Volterra has spoken to Owen about the death cult and wants to make a movie about them. James has heard rumors that the cultists are in the south of Greece and makes a journey down there. At this time, he discovers the method behind their murders: they kill people whose initials match the name of the village where they die. In Jerusalem, Volterra sets up an interview with a former cultist. The man tells him that here are many cells of this cult operating in many places. At this time, James's friend Ann Maitland has begun an affair with Eliades, who wants to know suspicious details of James's life.

In the third book, "The Desert," James goes to India to meet with Owen Brademas. He finds the man exhausted from some desert experience. Evidently, Owen finally found the cult in the northwest of India. They spoke to him about the sanctity of language and invited him to join them. However, when the time comes to kill the next victim, Owen could not do it. He is now ready to die, having gone to an extreme to take contact with a spiritual past.

When James returns to Greece, he learns that his employer has been funneling his risk analysis information to the CIA. This explains with the Greek nationalist Eliades has been asking after him. In his last days in Greece, James sees on of his friends shot by a gunman who may have been trying to kill James.

DeLillo ends the novel with "The Prairie," a short excerpt from Tap Axton's novel about Owen Brademas and his inability to speak in tongues as a young Pentecostal back him.

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This section contains 522 words
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