Underworld | Don DeLillo | A Review


Underworld | Don DeLillo | A Review

Underworld  Don DeLillo  A Review

Underworld | Don DeLillo | A Review

Underworld by Don DeLillo-A Review


Don DeLillo’s magnum opus, “Underworld,” stands as a monumental achievement in contemporary literature, a sprawling and intricate narrative tapestry that interlaces various characters and storylines across decades, while also delving into the heart of American history and human existence. Published in 1997, the novel’s scope and depth are awe-inspiring, as it captures pivotal moments and nuanced emotions that shape the American experience.

Plot and Structure:

“Underworld” begins with a memorable prologue set during the 1950s Dodgers-Giants baseball game, where a famous home run becomes the entry point into the narrative. DeLillo then meticulously weaves together the lives of various characters over the ensuing decades, exploring their interconnectedness and the intricate threads that bind them. The narrative structure is both chronological and non-linear, moving back and forth in time, creating a sense of timelessness that mirrors the novel’s overarching themes.


At its core, “Underworld” examines the duality of human nature and the complex relationship between personal lives and historical events. DeLillo adeptly navigates themes of memory, the passage of time, the allure of technology, and the impact of Cold War tensions. The novel also delves into the nature of waste and disposal, exploring how society discards not only physical objects but also memories, emotions, and connections.


The novel boasts a vast array of characters, each with their own struggles, desires, and conflicts. The characters serve as representatives of different aspects of American society, from artists and intellectuals to everyday citizens. The intricacies of their lives provide a microcosm through which DeLillo examines the macrocosm of American history. Nick Shay, a waste management executive, and Sister Edgar, a nun grappling with existential questions, stand out as central figures whose journeys encapsulate the novel’s themes.

Historical Anchoring:

“Underworld” is a historical novel in the truest sense, offering a kaleidoscopic view of American history. From the aftermath of World War II to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, DeLillo presents these events as a backdrop against which his characters’ lives unfold. The meticulous research and attention to detail provide a vivid and immersive experience, allowing readers to witness history in an intimate and personal manner.

Prose and Language:

DeLillo’s prose is a masterclass in evocative and lyrical writing. His sentences are often dense, rich with metaphors and philosophical contemplation. The novel’s language captures the essence of the characters’ thoughts and emotions, creating a deeply introspective and thought-provoking atmosphere. Readers willing to engage with the intricate prose are rewarded with profound insights into the human condition.


“Underworld” is not without its challenges. The non-linear narrative might prove disorienting for some readers, and the philosophical musings interspersed throughout the text could be seen as overly dense or abstract. The length of the novel might also deter those seeking a more streamlined reading experience.


“Underworld” by Don DeLillo is an ambitious and intellectually stimulating masterpiece that rewards patient and attentive readers. Through its intricate narrative structure, vivid characters, and historical scope, the novel encapsulates the ebb and flow of human existence against the backdrop of American history. Its exploration of memory, connection, and the enduring impact of the past makes it a resonant and timeless work that continues to provoke contemplation and discussion.

In a literary landscape that often prizes brevity and simplicity, “Underworld” stands as a testament to the power of expansive storytelling, inviting readers to immerse themselves in its depths and emerge with a renewed appreciation for the complexity of life and history. 0 0 0.

N.B. The article originally belongs to the book entitled ‘The Reviews of Epic Literature Around the World‘ by Menonim Menonimus.

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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