Underworld by Don Delillo

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In Don Delillo’s Underworld, the baseball is sought after as the ultimate goal and a fulfillment in life for Nick and the memorabilia collector. On the other hand, the ubiquitous use of waste throughout the novel is a motif of both the byproduct and the opportunity cost of mankind’s quests for fulfillment. Waste, whether as literal waste, wasted love, wasted lives, or objects all serve as a contrast to the value of the baseball as an object of fulfillment. The baseball Bobby Thomson hit is important because it is both worthless and priceless at the same time. It is worthless when it is removed from the context of a baseball game; it loses the very purpose that it stands for. Yet, people like Nick and the memorabilia collector are sentimentally attached to this particular baseball that produced a specific home run off ‘The Shot’. The circumstances of this baseball give it a history that is immensely valued by collectors like Nick and Marvin. Because of the value of the baseball, people like Cotter, Nick and Marvin use any means necessary to track down the baseball. It was “the one thing that my whole life for the past twenty-two years I was trying to collect” according to Marvin, the memorabilia collector. Cotter’s persistence in securing the baseball in the prologue is also another such example. Once he gets ahold of the baseball, “he feels it hot and buzzy in his hand” (Delillo 48) and runs away as soon as possible to secure it. Cotter, Nick and Marvin’s obsession with the baseball can be rationalized much like any other human goal or obsession. The baseball seems to symbolize a sense of purpose inherent in every human aspiration. The unique history behind the particular baseball is the reason why collectors like Nick and Mar... ... middle of paper ... ...ng a symbol of value in society and of being the ultimate goal for Marvin, Cotter, and Nick. The baseball, or value, is juxtaposed with waste, which is created whenever there is value. Both value and waste can be either material or immaterial: various ideas, relationships, money, cars are all examples of either value or waste depending on a person’s viewpoint. The relationship between waste and baseball is symbiotic: waste becomes reprocessed into value, which creates waste. This symbiosis, Delillo argues with his quote about waste, is responsible for ceaselessly driving the advancement of mankind. Therefore, Nick, Marvin, and Cotter are neither redeemed nor disregarded for searching out the baseball. Rather, they are simply behaving like how a human would be expected to behave. Works Cited DeLillo, Don. Underworld. New York, NY: Scribner, 2003, page 174.

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