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Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction

Homosociality and Nihilist Performance

Sandra Singer

Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction considers fictional work of the time subsequent to the attacks. The book develops and investigates models of stock characters in 9/11 fiction who promote the trauma meme within a narrative arc of tragedy; the conceptual evolution of trauma and media as thematic arcs is interpreted within specific 9/11 novels and in correspondence with other terrorist fiction. The almost exclusively male stock character protagonists include the male homosocial perpetrator and the tightrope walker. Among the more recent authors discussed are Amy Waldman and Thomas Pynchon, whose novels illustrate the way characters inhabit media models, rather than, as previously thought, using media for disseminating terrorist events and messaging. Other featured writers include Bernhard Schlink, Don DeLillo, Claire Messud, Ian McEwan, Joseph O’Neill, and Colum McCann. Stock Characters in 9/11 Fiction is a valuable text for scholars of 9/11 fiction, as well as for professors and university students studying contemporary literature.

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Chapter 2. Revisiting the Image of the Falling Man in Novels, Television and Film


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The words helped her locate the pictures. She needed the captions to fill the space. The pictures could overwhelm her without the little lines of type.

—Don DeLillo, Mao II

This chapter concerning terror, trauma, anxiety and social paranoia configures the victims of terrorism through the image of the euphemistically called 9/11 jumpers from the World Trade Center, and explores the social anxiety caused by witnessing the jumpers’ action taken in the face of certain death. My consideration of Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, AMC’s Mad Men and Don DeLillo’s Falling Man interprets post-11 September cultural scrutiny of the jumpers in relation to the political imaginary. These works revisit historical examples of American global overreach resulting in falling, though their narrative endings highlight the possibility of redemption.

The image of the jumpers was immediately checked, following the same impulse in the aftermath of the attack on New York City to control the distribution of the image of the planes flying into the towers, especially of the second plane that confirmed a terrorist attack in the minds of viewers. This repression created a silenced space in public discourse, architecturally similar to an empty void. Nonetheless, in conventional traumatic fashion, ← 35 | 36 → pre-linguistic memory stored as image recurs; in the years since 11 September, 2001, after being immediately redacted in news media, the image...

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