Don DeLillo’s idea of what it must have been like for young Lee Harvey Oswald is described in a very raw and introspective way. He sheds an interesting light on Oswald’s childhood, one that might be perceived and interpreted differently if it wasn’t made known that the boy riding trains in New York would grow up to murder a U.S. president. The author uses a quiet tone to describe rather graphic events, while the imagery gives it a sense of realness and the diction gives off a somber feeling.
The way that DeLillo nonchalantly describes the welts on Oswald’s legs after being whipped by his nanny sets the tone of the passage. The same goes for the way he talks about how children flocked to the scene of a shooting in a candy store, or how he describes the homeless people on the trains. This method sends an eerie vibe to the reader, which was most likely DeLillo’s intent, in an effort to portray the psychological issues of the future assassin.
The author also uses extreme detail in his imagery. Each setting that young Oswald finds himself in is described in a way that covers all aspects of what is going on, from the smell of the beer on the woman’s breath to the intense feeling of friction in his teeth while riding between the cars of the train. Even though the story is told in third person, the descriptive language makes it seem like the accounts are coming directly from Oswald himself.
Lastly, the careful word selection suggests that the boy had a relatively grim childhood that made him crave darkness and power. When the author described the scene of the Italian being murdered, it was bluntly followed by “His mother sold stockings in Manhattan.” This notion gives the idea that a killing wasn’t something too rare – an element that most likely contributed to his sinister future. The diction in the section that recalls his exciting train ride truly expresses his trouble when he notes that the idea of the train conductor being...
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