Underworld Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 30 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Underworld.
This section contains 499 words
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Underworld Summary & Study Guide Description

Underworld 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 Underworld by Don Delillo.

Underworld by Don DeLillo is a book about two people from the Bronx who have a brief affair and then go their separate ways. One becomes a famous artist and the other becomes a respected executive in the field of waste management. Forty years later, their paths cross again in the middle of the Arizona desert where they briefly meet and talk for a few minutes. The years between their meetings are the years of the Cold War and there are many social changes in society that DeLillo expertly captures.

The Prologue opens on October 3, 1951 when a young boy named Cotter Martin jumps the turnstiles at the Polo Grounds and gains admittance to the Dodgers-Giants game. The Giants win the pennant on Bobby Thomson's home run and Cotter leaves with the ball. He wants to keep the ball as a souvenir but his father, Manx, steals the ball while he is asleep and sells it to Charles Wainwright, who is standing in line at Yankee Stadium waiting to buy tickets. Another event occurs on this day. The Soviets successfully complete a test of the atomic bomb, intensifying the Cold War.

Just as the events in the game between the two teams are played out in the ballpark, the events in the lives of the various characters are played out in the ballpark of the world. The two main characters, Nick and Klara, are born and raised in the Bronx. Nick's father is a numbers runner who disappears one day and never returns. Nick is basically a good kid but he is somewhat of a street kid who eventually does time in a juvenile facility for negligent homicide. He is a hard working kid who meets Klara one day and has a quick affair. After their second meeting, she breaks it off and they each go their separate ways.

Both Nick and Klara wage their own battles during their lives. Klara is striving for independence and Nick is trying to put some distance between his present life and his early life. They do this while they and the rest of society live under the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Cold War affects the lives of everyone because it results in a mentality of paranoia and fear of the unknown. FBI Director Hoover has dossiers on thousands of people, including the rich and famous. The paranoia of the era is portrayed by comedian Lenny Bruce in his nightclub routines along with other social changes that are occurring in society, such as sexual permissiveness, the drug culture and the civil rights movement. DeLillo does a good job of capturing all of this, especially in Part Five, which consists of a series of fragments from different times in the 1950s and 1960s.

Underworld is a lengthy book but a very interesting one, especially for anyone who lived through the Cold War era. Readers will find it easy to relate to many of the characters and events in the book.

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This section contains 499 words
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Buy the Underworld Study Guide
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