Don DeLillo


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Cosmopolis Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature  detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo. 

In his novel, Cosmopolis (2003), Don DeLillo employs an affectless, disengaged style as a commentary on the insular, self-centered modern life, buffered by technology, but disconnected from the world around itself.

The story begins in billionaire Eric Packer’s forty-eight-room apartment. Suffering from insomnia, the narration details some of the failed techniques Packer has tried to overcome this affliction. He is bored, restless, and dissatisfied. Noting that the Yen has surged overnight, he gets dressed, and then he rides the elevator down to the street, where he writes a memo about the dated quality of the word skyscraper in a personal organizer, reflecting that it is outdated and he will soon have to throw it away. He walks to where his limousine is parked and gets in, along with his security chief, Torval, and driver, Ibrahim. He tells Ibrahim to take him to Anthony’s, the barbershop where Eric’s father used to go.

Shiner, his chief of technology, gets into the car, attempting to inform Eric of security tests undertaken the previous evening, but Eric frustrates him by asking about the limo—where it goes at night when he’s at home. Shiner expresses worry that Eric is losing his edge. Eric sees his new wife, Elise, walking by; he calls out to her and they go to have breakfast. They have been married just over three weeks, but have very little apparent intimacy during the desultory meal.

Back in the limo, Eric watches the news on television and learns that Arthur Rapp, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has been murdered. The police do not have a suspect in the crime. He checks the value of the Yen again, and finds, to his alarm, that it has risen again; he has made a major bet against it, and every time the Yen rises, his position becomes more vulnerable. Eric’s entire investment strategy centers on his prediction that the Yen will drop.

Jane Melman, Eric’s chief of finance, and Dr. Ingram, his personal physician, get into the limo. Dr. Ingram begins performing a medical examination on Eric, while Jane tries to convince Eric to give up his strategy on the Yen, take his losses, and regroup. Eric and Jane have strong sexual chemistry, which derails the conversation. When the exam is complete, Dr. Ingram informs Eric that his prostate is asymmetrical.

In a diary, Benno Levin writes that plans to murder Eric. A former employee of Eric’s, Levin now lives in an abandoned building and is stalking Eric.

Eric goes to lunch with Elise. A group of rowdy protesters bursts into the restaurant, shouting and throwing live rats. Eric flees back to the limo and picks up Vija Kinski, his chief of theory. Vija argues that Eric must stick to his Yen strategy; doing anything else would be a betrayal of who Eric is as a person. The streets become crowded with anti-capitalist protesters. Vija sneers at them, but Eric is more thoughtful, curious about them. Suddenly inspired to do some damage, to throw a wrench into the international markets, Eric begins buying more and more Yen to destabilize them.

Vija gets out, and the protesters are left behind. Torval informs Eric that he has received a threat on his life. Eric agrees to add another bodyguard, then heads to have dinner with his wife. He tells Elise that he has lost most of his money and that someone wants to kill him. He tells her he is happy, however, because it makes him feel free. Elise informs him that their marriage is over. When she leaves, Eric gains access to her accounts and liquidates her personal funds, ruining her.

Eric goes to a nightclub but spies a funeral procession moving down the street. He asks who has died and is told it is the famous rap artist Brutha Fez. A huge fan of Fez, Eric watches the procession with interest, then goes back to the limo. As he is about to get in, a protester appears with a pie and smashes it into Eric’s face.

Eric asks Torval to come to speak with him. He asks for Torval’s gun, and the bodyguard gives it to him. Eric shoots Torval and tosses the gun into some nearby bushes.

Eric gets back into the limo and Ibrahim takes him to Anthony’s, entering the barbershop with Eric. Eric notices the barber has a gun for protection. He gets a haircut, but halfway through, he decides to leave, getting up and taking the barber’s gun. Outside, he stumbles onto a film set where a group of actors is lying down pretending to be dead. He recognizes one as Elise. They go to a nearby alley, and Eric has sex with her. As Eric is walking away, someone shoots at him from the window of an abandoned building. Eric goes inside and meets Benno, who reveals his real name is Richard Sheets. Richard tells Eric that he was fired from Eric’s company and his life was destroyed; he sees killing Eric as a blow against capitalism itself. Eric tells Richard that he is insane and encourages him to shoot.