The Futile Goal of Nicholas Branch in Don DeLillo's Libra Essays

The Futile Goal of Nicholas Branch in Don DeLillo's Libra Essays

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The vast amount of evidence associated with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, an event that occurred more than fifty years ago, is still being collected and examined by an array of scientists, professional historians, and conspiracy theorists. Periodically, with continuous developments and improvements in technology, new information is being discovered that either relates to an existing theory about the assassination or inspires additional assumptions about the identity and location of another supposed shooter. According to author Don DeLillo, the immense quantity of the information pertaining to the heinous crime committed in Dallas on November 22nd of 1963 will never lead to or reveal a comprehensive and conclusive version of the event. In his novel Libra, DeLillo acknowledges the impossibility of collecting and studying the extensive evidence of the assassination and how this seemingly inexhaustible process is essentially responsible for creating more doubt and disorder in the case.
DeLillo shows the irrelevance and futility of obsessively studying the information of the assassination through the character of Nicholas Branch. As a CIA archivist, Branch is solely concerned with trying to uncover and catalogue every connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and anyone else who is or could conceivably be linked to the murder of President Kennedy. DeLillo remarks how Branch, after years of researching and gathering material, has not even begun composing the history of the assassination because more information is continuously being discovered and sent to him, he writes, “Branch must study everything. He is in too deep to be selective… The truth is he hasn’t written all that much. He has extensive and overlapping n...


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...as he subscribes to a single version of incidents that presents itself as a seamless and comprehensive whole in a culture where contradictions increase by the moment he will never finish the research, let alone the narrative” (143). DeLillo is content with not knowing the absolute facts about Kennedy’s assassination because he believes that it is the search for a complete truth that institutes uncertainty. His work has not been stalled by obsession for the case or by an obligation to uncover the truth. However Branch, and those who are like him, will be trapped in his room of chaos, doomed to forever dwell on his theories and forgetting to live.



Works Cited

DeLillo, Don. Libra. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.
Mott, Christopher M. “Libra and the Subject of History.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 35.3 (1994): 131-145. Web. 18 April 2014.

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