Don DeLillo's View on Postmodernism in His Literary Works

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DeLillo’s fiction describes the elements of both modernism and postmodernism. He has given the primary influences on his literary work and development, which is abstract expressionism, foreign films, and jazz. Many of his novels explore postmodern themes: rampant consumerism, novelty intellectualism, the disintegration and re-integration of the family, televised disasters, underground conspiracies and the promise of rebirth through violence. A highly original satirist and writer of historical fiction, and apocalyptic vision of paranoia, Don DeLillo is well-known for these novels in which he examines politics, religion, and technology as repressive forces. Although the central theme of his work is postmodernism, DeLillo’s primary concern in his writing is the establishment of alternative white modernist theories. Postmodernism is one of the most discussed theories in contemporary world. It enlightens various kinds of approaches to be art making. It is a mixture of different artistic and popular styles and media.

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The term “postmodernism” has influenced authors so that they choose it as their subject of writing as it deals with Postmodern Worldview of our time. The term ‘Postmodern’ was first used around 1880s by John Watkins Chapman. It aims to discuss postmodern aspects and varieties in the light of five novels; chronologically they are– The Names, White Noise, Libra, Mao II, and Underworld by Don DeLillo’s respectively. Each memorable character represents a principle, a force, a condition, an essence. The movement of such characters through a story seems inevitable; there is something mysterious, simple, and fateful about them. Postmodernism is a wide cultural movement that developed in the 20th century. It started in the architecture, arts, philosophy and criticism. It is a departure from modernism. Postmodernism includes skeptical interpretations of literature, culture, architecture, fiction and literary criticism. Postmodernism is an artistic style. It is hard to define, so which does not have any definite specifications and boundaries. Postmodernism does not believe in absolute truth. Postmodernists never attempt to force their thoughts on others about right and wrong, truth and falsity, good and evil.

There are many characters in Don DeLillo’s novels whose human mind and the body are of a piece. In the final scene of his White Noise, for instance, Jack Gladney is an academic researcher of Hitler theories with his friend Murray Siskind. Both of them have found the similar theories about Hitler and Elvis. This is the story of meaningless life; a life that is going well surrounded, until a chemical spill that upon from a rail car releases an ‘Airborne Toxic Event’ and Jack is tried to his mystery and his own morality. Post war experimental fiction may be seen as a search for ways to deal with the violence, brevity, and rigidity of life. It carries to great extremes the themes of combativeness, fragmentariness, coolness, and meaninglessness that are the marks of the modern fiction. It may originate in the modernist sense of life as problematic, but unlike the great experimental fiction of the 1920’s, it does not lament the brokenness of experience as a sign of the decline of the western civilization. The post war experimental writer tries to see the man differently. The modernist experimental hero was shaped by the humanistic ethos political, religious, anthropological and psychoanalytic sensitivity and succinctly described by Irving Howe in the title essay of literary modernism.

The experimental hero of the post war period is shaped by the concern with functioning and behaviour that spawned and accelerated the growth of ego psychology in the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s, and is characteristic of an age of increasing technological sophistication. Only a few experimental writers use explicitly technological imagery to describe people; only the most extreme prefer the assembly line and the computer to organic images for the process of birth and thought. In only the most radical experimenters is the mind equated with the cyberneticist’s feedback mechanism, responding to changing external conditions. But virtually all experimental fiction is concerned with the mechanism and conduct of the individual’s mind and life, with the search for a different adaptation, an angle of vision, a mode of feeling or behaviour which will alter the protagonist’s condition.

The Cold war represented a degree of political and military involvement in world affairs quite new in American history, though a role as a world power had been developing since the end of the nineteenth century. Events everywhere in the world, in the most remote cities and rural districts, not only were immediately available as “news”, but also impinged on the lives of Americans with the more force than ever before. Major episodes in the Cold war, some of which threatened actual conflict and contributed to the widespread anxiety about mass destruction, included the Berlin blockade of 1948, the Russian explosion of an atomic bomb in 1949, the building of the Berlin wall in 1961, and the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962. The Cold war was an inescapable fact of life, implicated as much in the spectacular development of technologies of warfare and of communication and transportation as in the unprecedented concentration of power in government agencies, especially those covered with military affairs and with espionage. Many Cold war assumptions and the government institutions which embodied them came under sharp scrutiny and attack during the up swelling of opposition and resistance to the Vietnam War in the 1960’s.

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Don DeLillo’s View on Postmodernism in His Literary Works. (2020, December 14). WritingBros. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
“Don DeLillo’s View on Postmodernism in His Literary Works.” WritingBros, 14 Dec. 2020,
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