It’s Karen against the World of DeLillo

            In chapter fourteen of Mao II, Karen returns to Bill’s home to find Scott cleaning dishes. He says there is a chance that Bill won’t come back (222). Karen in her last appearance believes that they should have the house because they took care of Bill (223). This is typical Karen behavior. She is the forever-faithful believer in hope that everything is supposed to happen as it should. She evokes this sense naivety just as she does when Scott first tells her that Bill is missing. Karen initially thinks that Bill will contact them again (118). In actuality, the feeling that readers get from this final scene is that Scott and Karen’s real conflicts are only just beginning. Scott, the realist of the couple, says “The night of the lawyers is approaching” (223). True to DeLillo form, the author leaves the readers hanging. We do not know what is going to happen to Karen and Scott just like we do not know what happens to Jean-Claude.

            In class, we talked about how DeLillo does not give his readers a tightly encased story with a beginning and a climatic ending that wraps everything up. And some readers find Delillo’s stories unsettling. The endings conflict with the conventions of an ending that we have come to know. Like the readers, Karen has certain beliefs, standards, or rules about how things are supposed to end:

 “They can own the house,” Karen said. “But they should let us live here. And we keep the manuscript and we keep the pictures.” (223)

 The truth is Karen and Scott will probably lose the house, the pictures, and the manuscript to either the family or Charles. The class also talked about how in the real world, stories are usually left unresolved. But if they end, they do not end the way we had predicted.  It seems that Karen is in conflict with Don Delillo’s conventional form writing. He has created worlds, similar to our own, where problems are left unsettled. Yet, there are some traditional conventions of the more familiar novels within in this chapter. Initially, this scene has that moment when two characters, who have not seen each other in a long time, embrace passionately with tears of either regret or happiness (220). And, DeLillo seems to be evoking this literal sense of hope by the end of the chapter. But I think the deeper feeling is that Karen and Scott are in trouble. In reality, and in Delillo’s worlds, things do not end the way people can conventionally expect.

One thought on “It’s Karen against the World of DeLillo”

  1. While, I agree with you that Karen and Scott will lose the pictures and manuscript, I’m not sure if they will lose the house. Judging by the relationship that Bill has with his family, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did not care enough about the house to fight for it. It seemed to me from the conversation that Bill had with his daughter that they are used to him living in seclusion, so I wonder how long it would really take them to discover that he is dead. Months had past by after he went to London, and there was no mention of the family asking where Bill was. The only two people that were concerned about his whereabouts were Karen and Scott.

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