Temporality: Contextualizing Experience in DeLillo’s Falling Man

Nath Aldalala’a


The novel, Falling Man, by Don DeLillo examines the experience of a survivor of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and its impact on his everyday life. This article considers the particularity of experience conveyed in the novel and how it is bound up with specific temporal and spatial parameters that suggest 9/11 remains hostage to interpretative modes and to the testimony of its survivors. Keith Neudecker, the chief protagonist in Falling Man, embodies this impasse in his roles as a victim and a spectator of the historical moment of 9/11. The impact and subsequent public disavowal of the photograph of a man falling from the twin towers is considered in tandem with the sense of impasse that contradicts the illusion of movement in Keith’s life post 9/11. Falling Man constructs a narrative of stasis, in which the protagonist remains located in the moment. Consequently, a narrative of past innocence, written reflectively, cannot be adequately formulated. The emphasis on the semantics and temporality of falling in DeLillo’s title posits mankind in a state of being that resides between innocence and experience as the essential moment has not been passed. However, if we consider the “fall” in the title as religious, our expectation of this leading to a state of “experience” is frustrated; the fall is arrested and the main narrative of the novel held in stasis, leaving Keith, and by extension America itself, without the possibility of a future to move on to.


Post-9-11 Fiction, Terrorism, Don DeLillo, Falling Man, Islam in the United States, Islam, Trauma, Arabs in Literature

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