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White Noise Essay, Research Paper

White Noise: The Heat of Numbers in Our Daily Lives

Numbers run our daily lives. It has become a fact in our society. In the case of White Noise by Don DeLillo this is shown to be true. Jack Gladney’s fear of death has hidden itself within everyday life. Within the book Jack builds a life full of tangibility while acquiring little factual knowledge. He hopes that throwing himself into his Hitler Studies will give him a contented understanding of his existence. The two important revelations of the discovery of Dylar and the knowledge that his death is truly eminent have an impact so deep that he responds with drastic measures.

Throughout the story one can find that the human need for tangible belongings, something to prove their existence. The first true showing of need for tangible grasping is when Jack is taking German lessons from Howard Dunlop, one of Murray Siskind’s neighbors. As the conversation between Jack and Howard continues we find that among other things Howard teaches meteorology. He found comfort in this subject after his mother’s death. He states, “I realized weather was something I’d been looking for all my life. It brought me a sense of peace and security I’d never experience (55).” The weather is something that is universally tangible in the sense that one can feel its effects. Heinrich may disagree much like he did on page 24. Howard became more sociable because of the discussion of the weather. Jack’s focus on Hitler also dwells on the idea of tangible objects. On page 63 he states that, “Some people put on a uniform and feel bigger, stronger, and safer. It’s in this area that my obsessions dwell.” One of the bigger points to my argument comes in chapter 17. A comment from a colleague (”You look so harmless”) compels Jack to go on a shopping spree. In attaining more valuables Jack finds comfort in his possessions (83-4).

There is miscommunication all over the story. From rumors about men in Mylex suits to rumors about dead deer at the Kung Fu Palace. Even the main character himself says that his family is “the cradle of the world’s misinformation.” He also states that, “Not to know is a weapon of survival (80-2).” All this comes into conjunction with an earlier statement on page 15 when he is talking about the question of who will die first. He reasons that, “The question of dying becomes a wise reminder. It cures us of our innocence of the future. Simple things are doomed, or is that a superstitions?” Not having the full knowledge represents innocence. Misinformation keeps us from having a clear understanding of all facts. The characters want this because they cannot handle clear and simple things because it leads to doom. They want to complicate in order to survive. They misunderstand for a reason. This may be a lot to take in, but I’ll sum this all up later.

Disbelief also contributes to misunderstanding of factual knowledge. During the “Airborne Toxic Event,” we are shown the greatest examples of this. When the authorities change the name of the “feathery plume” to a “black billowing cloud” Jack thinks that the authorities are being more realistic about the situation (113). On the next page, he shows his disbelief when he says that, “These things happen to poor people who live in exposed areas (114).” This goes against an earlier statement on page 6 when Babette gets no argument from her statement that, “I have trouble imagining death at an income level. These last two statements are contradictory. Jack absolutely associates income level with undesirable situations. Even the announcement “Evacuate all places of residence. Cloud of deadly chemicals, cloud of deadly chemicals,” doesn’t realistically hit them that this is an emergency. Babette that she’s sure there’s plenty of time or else they would have told them “to hurry (119).”

It’s so much easier to have one’s life run by numbers. Jack describes his daughter’s friends as “a race of people with a seven-bit analog consciousness (41).” The characters themselves know that they are just numbers. On page 49 Babette says there is a difference between her husband’s age of fifty and fifty-one. “One is even, one is odd.” As jack reads the obituary section of the newspaper (99) he notes the age of the people. “Four years to go. Nine more years. Two years and I’m dead.” The characters are run by one complete system. If you are not a number, then you don’t exist.

Jack relies on the numbers, just as most of us do in everyday lives. You can’t open a bank account without an ID with your social security number on it. You go through college as a number. We all rely on numbers. As Jack relies on his numbers he is first happy that the system of numbers were in agreement on page 46 as he checks his bank balance. As the paragraph goes, “I sensed that something of deep personal value, but not money, not at all, had been authenticated and confirmed.” He values his numbered order, as we all might. Later, the numbers start getting out of “harmony.” With the SIMUVAC technician (140), his own doctor (260) and with a specialist (279) he is told that they are getting bracketed numbers with stars of some type. His world starts to collapse as the numbers start getting out of harmony.

Early in the story Jack says, “Maybe there is no death as we know it. Just documents changing hands (6).” Murray speaks of the heat of city life (10). In the city, we are less known. We are just numbers. The numbers is the heat of the city. The advancement of society has given us the numbers that track us along with the urban society. The numbers and the heat of the city are the same thing.

Some people see all too well that they are just numbers. Murray says to Babette that, “Men shout as they die, to be noticed, remembered for a second or two.” That’s why the convict that Heinrich is playing chess with killed six people. The TV told him to do it. He did it to be remembered. “Time was running out on him,” as Heinrich said.

Sometimes we see that the best way to be remembered is to buy a lot of belongings. That’s why shopping sprees (like the one Jack took) makes us feel better. It gives some proof of our existence. We cannot talk about existence without eventually talking about death. We don’t want too much factual knowledge because it leads to death. We do not want to understand unless we can understand death. We do not want too many facts about anything else at all because we are scared that it will lead to the dread of death. The Dread, not death, is so unbearable unless we can understand death. That is why we look to religion later in life. The faith is comforting. We feel we have the understanding of death. The dread of death that we felt is relieved. People want to know information only if it can lead to contented understanding of death. Otherwise, we give ourselves to this maze of numbers without question. Without thinking too much, it eases our minds from the Dread of death.

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White Noise Essay Research Paper White Noise

White Noise Essay Research Paper White Noise

White Noise Essay, Research Paper

White Noise: The Heat of Numbers in Our Daily Lives

Numbers run our daily lives. It has become a fact in our society. In the case of White Noise by Don DeLillo this is shown to be true. Jack Gladney’s fear of death has hidden itself within everyday life. Within the book Jack builds a life full of tangibility while acquiring little factual knowledge. He hopes that throwing himself into his Hitler Studies will give him a contented understanding of his existence. The two important revelations of the discovery of Dylar and the knowledge that his death is truly eminent have an impact so deep that he responds with drastic measures.

Throughout the story one can find that the human need for tangible belongings, something to prove their existence. The first true showing of need for tangible grasping is when Jack is taking German lessons from Howard Dunlop, one of Murray Siskind’s neighbors. As the conversation between Jack and Howard continues we find that among other things Howard teaches meteorology. He found comfort in this subject after his mother’s death. He states, “I realized weather was something I’d been looking for all my life. It brought me a sense of peace and security I’d never experience (55).” The weather is something that is universally tangible in the sense that one can feel its effects. Heinrich may disagree much like he did on page 24. Howard became more sociable because of the discussion of the weather. Jack’s focus on Hitler also dwells on the idea of tangible objects. On page 63 he states that, “Some people put on a uniform and feel bigger, stronger, and safer. It’s in this area that my obsessions dwell.” One of the bigger points to my argument comes in chapter 17. A comment from a colleague (”You look so harmless”) compels Jack to go on a shopping spree. In attaining more valuables Jack finds comfort in his possessions (83-4).

There is miscommunication all over the story. From rumors about men in Mylex suits to rumors about dead deer at the Kung Fu Palace. Even the main character himself says that his family is “the cradle of the world’s misinformation.” He also states that, “Not to know is a weapon of survival (80-2).” All this comes into conjunction with an earlier statement on page 15 when he is talking about the question of who will die first. He reasons that, “The question of dying becomes a wise reminder. It cures us of our innocence of the future. Simple things are doomed, or is that a superstitions?” Not having the full knowledge represents innocence. Misinformation keeps us from having a clear understanding of all facts. The characters want this because they cannot handle clear and simple things because it leads to doom. They want to complicate in order to survive. They misunderstand for a reason. This may be a lot to take in, but I’ll sum this all up later.

Disbelief also contributes to misunderstanding of factual knowledge. During the “Airborne Toxic Event,” we are shown the greatest examples of this. When the authorities change the name of the “feathery plume” to a “black billowing cloud” Jack thinks that the authorities are being more realistic about the situation (113). On the next page, he shows his disbelief when he says that, “These things happen to poor people who live in exposed areas (114).” This goes against an earlier statement on page 6 when Babette gets no argument from her statement that, “I have trouble imagining death at an income level. These last

two statements are contradictory. Jack absolutely associates income level with undesirable situations. Even the announcement “Evacuate all places of residence. Cloud of deadly chemicals, cloud of deadly chemicals,” doesn’t realistically hit them that this is an emergency. Babette that she’s sure there’s plenty of time or else they would have told them “to hurry (119).”

It’s so much easier to have one’s life run by numbers. Jack describes his daughter’s friends as “a race of people with a seven-bit analog consciousness (41).” The characters themselves know that they are just numbers. On page 49 Babette says there is a difference between her husband’s age of fifty and fifty-one. “One is even, one is odd.” As jack reads the obituary section of the newspaper (99) he notes the age of the people. “Four years to go. Nine more years. Two years and I’m dead.” The characters are run by one complete system. If you are not a number, then you don’t exist.

Jack relies on the numbers, just as most of us do in everyday lives. You can’t open a bank account without an ID with your social security number on it. You go through college as a number. We all rely on numbers. As Jack relies on his numbers he is first happy that the system of numbers were in agreement on page 46 as he checks his bank balance. As the paragraph goes, “I sensed that something of deep personal value, but not money, not at all, had been authenticated and confirmed.” He values his numbered order, as we all might. Later, the numbers start getting out of “harmony.” With the SIMUVAC technician (140), his own doctor (260) and with a specialist (279) he is told that they are getting bracketed numbers with stars of some type. His world starts to collapse as the numbers start getting out of harmony.

Early in the story Jack says, “Maybe there is no death as we know it. Just documents changing hands (6).” Murray speaks of the heat of city life (10). In the city, we are less known. We are just numbers. The numbers is the heat of the city. The advancement of society has given us the numbers that track us along with the urban society. The numbers and the heat of the city are the same thing.

Some people see all too well that they are just numbers. Murray says to Babette that, “Men shout as they die, to be noticed, remembered for a second or two.” That’s why the convict that Heinrich is playing chess with killed six people. The TV told him to do it. He did it to be remembered. “Time was running out on him,” as Heinrich said.

Sometimes we see that the best way to be remembered is to buy a lot of belongings. That’s why shopping sprees (like the one Jack took) makes us feel better. It gives some proof of our existence. We cannot talk about existence without eventually talking about death. We don’t want too much factual knowledge because it leads to death. We do not want to understand unless we can understand death. We do not want too many facts about anything else at all because we are scared that it will lead to the dread of death. The Dread, not death, is so unbearable unless we can understand death. That is why we look to religion later in life. The faith is comforting. We feel we have the understanding of death. The dread of death that we felt is relieved. People want to know information only if it can lead to contented understanding of death. Otherwise, we give ourselves to this maze of numbers without question. Without thinking too much, it eases our minds from the Dread of death.

FREE White Noise Essay

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"Who will die first (Delillo 15)?  Driven by the fear of death, Don Delillo's White Noise strategically attempts to uncover the underlining notion of death relating to all aspects of popular culture. Based on television and radio commercials, print ads and the internet, there seems to be an earnestly increasing campaign to hide death beneath the surfaces of eye-catching ads and commercials to purposely divert people's attention from death. According to The Theory Toolbox, Nealon and Giroux state that "cultures influence subjects as much as subjects influence culture (Nealon, Giroux 53),  but if this is true, then why is there such a big emphasis being placed on concealing death? Why are so many people afraid of the idea of dying? In one way or another, does religion, or the lack there of prevent people from finding internal peace with death and the skeptical afterlife? Although these questions have been raised in a variety of scholarly debates, Don Delillo has managed to create a novel where the plot, theme, and conflict all revolve around the central fear of death. In order to understand the relationship between culture and death as it is symbolically portrayed in White Noise, one must thoroughly examine the character roles of Jack and Babette Gladney and their representation of real life fears and concerns.

" ¦Even if culture somehow controlled subjects in some simple cause-and-effect way, contemporary culture itself is so diverse and diffuse that those methods of "control  would necessarily produce a very strange being indeed (Nealon, Giroux 53).  Meet Jack Gladney, the founder and professor of Hitler Studies at College-on-the-Hill. If "control  would produce a very strange being indeed, Jack Gladney would be god. Jack is driven by his fear of death. One of the many ways Jack displays his conscious fear of death is through the creation of the department of Hitler Studies. Based on the events that transpired during th

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Реферат: White Noise Essay Research Paper White Noise

White Noise Essay, Research Paper

White Noise: The Heat of Numbers in Our Daily Lives

Numbers run our daily lives. It has become a fact in our society. In the case of White Noise by Don DeLillo this is shown to be true. Jack Gladney’s fear of death has hidden itself within everyday life. Within the book Jack builds a life full of tangibility while acquiring little factual knowledge. He hopes that throwing himself into his Hitler Studies will give him a contented understanding of his existence. The two important revelations of the discovery of Dylar and the knowledge that his death is truly eminent have an impact so deep that he responds with drastic measures.

Throughout the story one can find that the human need for tangible belongings, something to prove their existence. The first true showing of need for tangible grasping is when Jack is taking German lessons from Howard Dunlop, one of Murray Siskind’s neighbors. As the conversation between Jack and Howard continues we find that among other things Howard teaches meteorology. He found comfort in this subject after his mother’s death. He states, “I realized weather was something I’d been looking for all my life. It brought me a sense of peace and security I’d never experience (55).” The weather is something that is universally tangible in the sense that one can feel its effects. Heinrich may disagree much like he did on page 24. Howard became more sociable because of the discussion of the weather. Jack’s focus on Hitler also dwells on the idea of tangible objects. On page 63 he states that, “Some people put on a uniform and feel bigger, stronger, and safer. It’s in this area that my obsessions dwell.” One of the bigger points to my argument comes in chapter 17. A comment from a colleague (”You look so harmless”) compels Jack to go on a shopping spree. In attaining more valuables Jack finds comfort in his possessions (83-4).

There is miscommunication all over the story. From rumors about men in Mylex suits to rumors about dead deer at the Kung Fu Palace. Even the main character himself says that his family is “the cradle of the world’s misinformation.” He also states that, “Not to know is a weapon of survival (80-2).” All this comes into conjunction with an earlier statement on page 15 when he is talking about the question of who will die first. He reasons that, “The question of dying becomes a wise reminder. It cures us of our innocence of the future. Simple things are doomed, or is that a superstitions?” Not having the full knowledge represents innocence. Misinformation keeps us from having a clear understanding of all facts. The characters want this because they cannot handle clear and simple things because it leads to doom. They want to complicate in order to survive. They misunderstand for a reason. This may be a lot to take in, but I’ll sum this all up later.

Disbelief also contributes to misunderstanding of factual knowledge. During the “Airborne Toxic Event,” we are shown the greatest examples of this. When the authorities change the name of the “feathery plume” to a “black billowing cloud” Jack thinks that the authorities are being more realistic about the situation (113). On the next page, he shows his disbelief when he says that, “These things happen to poor people who live in exposed areas (114).” This goes against an earlier statement on page 6 when Babette gets no argument from her statement that, “I have trouble imagining death at an income level. These last two statements are contradictory. Jack absolutely associates income level with undesirable situations. Even the announcement “Evacuate all places of residence. Cloud of deadly chemicals, cloud of deadly chemicals,” doesn’t realistically hit them that this is an emergency. Babette that she’s sure there’s plenty of time or else they would have told them “to hurry (119).”

It’s so much easier to have one’s life run by numbers. Jack describes his daughter’s friends as “a race of people with a seven-bit analog consciousness (41).” The characters themselves know that they are just numbers. On page 49 Babette says there is a difference between her husband’s age of fifty and fifty-one. “One is even, one is odd.” As jack reads the obituary section of the newspaper (99) he notes the age of the people. “Four years to go. Nine more years. Two years and I’m dead.” The characters are run by one complete system. If you are not a number, then you don’t exist.

Jack relies on the numbers, just as most of us do in everyday lives. You can’t open a bank account without an ID with your social security number on it. You go through college as a number. We all rely on numbers. As Jack relies on his numbers he is first happy that the system of numbers were in agreement on page 46 as he checks his bank balance. As the paragraph goes, “I sensed that something of deep personal value, but not money, not at all, had been authenticated and confirmed.” He values his numbered order, as we all might. Later, the numbers start getting out of “harmony.” With the SIMUVAC technician (140), his own doctor (260) and with a specialist (279) he is told that they are getting bracketed numbers with stars of some type. His world starts to collapse as the numbers start getting out of harmony.

Early in the story Jack says, “Maybe there is no death as we know it. Just documents changing hands (6).” Murray speaks of the heat of city life (10). In the city, we are less known. We are just numbers. The numbers is the heat of the city. The advancement of society has given us the numbers that track us along with the urban society. The numbers and the heat of the city are the same thing.

Some people see all too well that they are just numbers. Murray says to Babette that, “Men shout as they die, to be noticed, remembered for a second or two.” That’s why the convict that Heinrich is playing chess with killed six people. The TV told him to do it. He did it to be remembered. “Time was running out on him,” as Heinrich said.

Sometimes we see that the best way to be remembered is to buy a lot of belongings. That’s why shopping sprees (like the one Jack took) makes us feel better. It gives some proof of our existence. We cannot talk about existence without eventually talking about death. We don’t want too much factual knowledge because it leads to death. We do not want to understand unless we can understand death. We do not want too many facts about anything else at all because we are scared that it will lead to the dread of death. The Dread, not death, is so unbearable unless we can understand death. That is why we look to religion later in life. The faith is comforting. We feel we have the understanding of death. The dread of death that we felt is relieved. People want to know information only if it can lead to contented understanding of death. Otherwise, we give ourselves to this maze of numbers without question. Without thinking too much, it eases our minds from the Dread of death.

White Noise

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Sample essay topic, essay writing: White Noise - 710 words

The central conflict between Jack and Babette Gladney is basically thestruggle for control and also the struggle for who is more afraid of death. Jack Gladney throughout the whole novel tries to think that he knows his wifeBabette he tries to control her thoughts by saying she is supposed to act acertain way. Jack wants to be the one afraid of death and at the same time wantsto get rid of his fear. In the story Jack confronts Babette about the medicine she is taking, he wantsto know what it is and why she is taking it. He tells her that if she doesn'ttell him the reasons that Denise will. Jack is very understanding and tells herto take her time telling him.

Babette tells him that Gray Research wasconducting humanexperiments on fear and then decided not to conduct them on humans but oncomputers. She told Jack how she made a deal with "Mr. Gray" and in exchange tocontinue with the experiment with Dylar (the drug) she would give him her body. Jacks reaction to this was not the kind you'd expect when your wife is tellingyou she cheated on you. He was mostly calm, stayed laying in bed, and evenoffered Babette some Jell-O with banana slices that Steffie had made. Jack went on asking why Babette needed this drug and what it's purpose was. Hewanted to know why they couldn't test on animals

Babette answered,"That's just the point. No animal has this condition. This is a human condition. Animals fear many things, Mr. Gray said. But their brains aren't sophisticatedenough to accommodate this particular state of mind."(195)Jack then was starting to realize what Babette was getting at. This is when theemotion kicks in for him.

Now he feels all the emotions he was supposed to feelwhen she told him he cheated on him. He states, "My body went cold. I felthollow inside." (195) He was waiting for her answer. She tells him, "I'm afraidto die. I think about it all the time. It won't go away."(195) He responds with,"Don't tell me this, this is terrible."Jack's reaction to Babette's fear seems misplaced.

He is more upset that shecould possibly be more afraid of death than him than he seemed to be about hersleeping with Mr. Gray. He goes on trying to tell Babette that maybe she isn'tsure that she is afraid of death, "death is so vague." He tries to tell her thatit might be her weight or height that is her problem. He cannot accept that sheis scared of death. Much of this could stem from what he depends on Babette for. Jack depends on Babettepsychologically more than sexually.

So that could compensate the reasoning thathe was more upset that she was afraid of death than of the cheating. He dependedonher for abundance of life and now his safe place was gone. In the end of the novel Jack tells Babette that he is going to meet with Mr. Gray to get some Dylar. In reality he plans to kill Mr. Gray, only everythinggoes wrong when he tries to do this, and it's almost comical to read. He doesn'tsucceed in killing Gray but ends up taking him to the hospital.

No one everknows why Jack decided to try and kill Gray. Maybe he actually was jealous thatMr. Gray had slept with his wife or maybe it was because by killing Mr. Gray hecould kill his fear of death. Even to the end of the novel not much about the role of death in the eyes ofJack and Babette changes. The book ends when Wilder is crossing the road on histricycle and cars are honking and swerving to not hit the little boy while he isin a state of oblivion, he doesn't hear the cars, he doesn't hear the womenyelling for him to stop, that's all just 'white noise' to him. Suddenly he fallsinto a puddle off of his tricycleand begins to cry and he realizes that hebrushed death for the first time. Throughout the story Wilder represented a kind of innocence not found in anycharacter in the novel, he was the only one who was not concerned with death ordying, he didn't understand the concept. Now his innocence is gone and he is nowjust like everyone else.

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White Noise Study Guide

White Noise Study Guide

White Noise was published in 1985 to great critical acclaim; it won the National Book Award and, more importantly, opened up DeLillo's oeuvre to new readers. More than anything, it established DeLillo alongside Thomas Pynchon as one of the most important contemporary writers and a must-have on collegiate syllabi.

DeLillo claims his main inspiration for Jack Gladney 's obsessive fear of death was Ernest Becker's 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction work, The Denial of Death, in which Becker argues that man's attempt to deny the fact of his own death is his major impulse. While this idea could hold water in any period, DeLillo makes it all the more relevant by examining the "white noise" of modern death that lends the novel its title, the reminders of our death that lurk beneath our technological society.

More specifically, DeLillo explores the notion of simulacra (something that resembles something else or, in other words, simulations) in American society. In 1983, French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote Simulations. In it, he maintains that the postmodern world privileges simulacra over reality; we believe our secondary, simulated reality is more real than first-degree reality. His classic example is that Disneyland, a fantasy world, seems more real to us than the real world. DeLillo utilizes this idea throughout White Noise, focusing on a nation reared on the simulated reality of the media which even had a former actor (Ronald Reagan) as President at the time. DeLillo says the idea for White Noise came to him while he watched television news, and realized that toxic spills were becoming such a daily occurrence that no one the news cared about them -- only those affected by the spills cared. We can see this idea play out in the airborne toxic event in White Noise, when people are upset that the media pays their crisis little attention, but it emerges in subtler ways when DeLillo examines the consumerist, technological atmospheres of death we create for ourselves -- from our living rooms to our cars to our supermarkets.

DeLillo also takes a look at several more typically postmodern ideas -- ambiguity of identity, waste, racial heterogeneity, the family -- and gives them his astute, humorous spin. Though most readers find his view of American society harsh and pessimistic, others see the ending of White Noise -- with its bonding through consumerism in the face of death -- as subversively uplifting.

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White Noise Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for White Noise is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

White Noise is written in the first person. Jack Gladney is the narrator.

SparkNotes: White Noise: Study Questions & Essay Topics

White Noise

1. What is the relationship between Jack’s appearance and his character throughout White Noise ?

Jack makes repeated references to the robe and dark glasses he wears while on campus. He admits that he deliberately plans his appearance, in order to project a greater sense of authority. By gaining weight, changing his initials, and donning a pair of dark glasses, he became a more significant figure, worthy of Hitler, his weighty subject matter. In moments of doubt or fear, Jack instinctively longs for his academic regalia, because he has come to believe, however irrationally, that those distinguished accessories can and will protect him from death. As Jack notes, he has become the false character who follows the name J. A. K. Gladney around. The appearance he has created now exists independently from him. He needs the costume to feel full and strong, because it is the costume—rather than an inherent aspect of Jack’s character—that exudes an air of authority and power.

This distinction becomes explicit in Jack’s brief encounter at the shopping mall with a colleague from the college. Jack’s colleague notes that, without his dark glasses and robe, Jack looks like a harmless figure as opposed to the commanding department head he appears to be on campus. Jack, suddenly aware of his vulnerability, responds by claiming a new authority as massive consumer. He shops with reckless abandon not because he wants to, but because shopping is the only way he can regain his sense of authority in the absence of his glasses and robe. Once Jack’s exposure to Nyodene Derivative has been diagnosed, he wears his glasses more frequently, and in particular moments of weakness he openly declares that he wishes he had his robe. Until the end of the novel, Jack has vested all of his self-worth in the illusion of the college professor and department chair he has successfully created.

2. Describe Heinrich’s attitude toward and relationship with death.

Early in the novel, Jack relates his concerns for his son, noting that an air of darkness seems to surround him. Jack’s concern certainly seems well founded. Heinrich deliberately surrounds himself with death: he plays chess with a convicted murderer, his only friend is a nineteen-year-old senior training to sit in a cage of poisonous snakes, and he’s the family expert on disasters. Heinrich not only associates himself with death but also actively cultivates a relationship with it. The closer he gets to it, the stronger and more confident he becomes. His shining moment is at the Boy Scout evacuation camp, where his encyclopedic knowledge of Nyodene Derivate’s potentially lethal consequences allows him to flourish as he never has before.

Heinrich’s attitude toward death represents an alternate perspective to his father’s outlook. Jack tries to avoid and fight death, while Heinrich stares at it straight on and smiles. During the family’s evacuation from the airborne toxic event, Heinrich is the only one in the car clearly excited by what is happening. Heinrich’s appreciation for death takes on another layer when we consider his name, which Jack gave him because he thought a German name would confer upon him a certain authority and power. The name, however, invokes Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi police and the man responsible for executing the Final Solution, the Nazi program that sought the systematic extermination of Jews during World War II. Heinrich’s morbid sensibilities disturb Jack, but Jack must himself take some responsibility for shaping that temperament.

3. Briefly discuss the role of plot in shaping the narrative structure of White Noise .

At the close of one of his lectures, Jack states that all plots tend toward death. Jack’s comment concerns the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life, yet the word plot reverberates throughout the novel in both its literal sense—defined as “a secret scheme” or “plan”—and in a literary sense—defined as “a narrative’s pattern of events.” If all plots, literary or otherwise, tend toward death, then Jack’s acute fear of dying would reasonably lead him to avoid plots or plans of any kind. Plots imply progress, and since neither lives nor novels can go on indefinitely, plots must also imply endings, finality, and death. Jack believes that if he can avoid gaining momentum, he can delay or possibly avoid his inevitable conclusion. While standing alone at the Old Burying Ground, he reminds himself to live aimlessly, without following a plan, and the novel’s structure mirrors that idea in its first half. The story ambles from one event to the next, leisurely accumulating details and developing characters while resisting anything that might conventionally be construed as plot. In this way, the narrative—and its narrator—resists death.

However, a radical shift occurs in the final third of the novel, when Jack learns of his wife’s infidelities and her mysterious prescription. Suddenly, a series of events are set in motion, forming an unambiguous plotline that Jack cannot avoid or escape. In a quick succession of implausible coincidences, Jack receives a loaded gun, learns that murder might relieve the fear of his own death, and discovers the whereabouts of his nemesis, Willie Mink. Jack doesn’t initiate any of these events but rather lets himself get caught up in narrative’s domino effect. The machinations of the plot overwhelm Jack, carrying him along to the seemingly inevitable conclusion—death. And yet, in the novel’s concluding moments, Jack confronts death only to sidestep it once again. He decides not to kill Willie Mink, taking him instead to a hospital for treatment of his wounds. In the final chapter, Jack’s stepson Wilder rides his tricycle across a busy highway, miraculously managing to escape any harm. The novel thus ends with life asserted twice in the face of seemingly certain death, a move that retroactively undermines the notion that all plots lead toward death.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. What does the white noise of the novel symbolize?

2. How does DeLillo’s use of humor affect the story?

3. What role does the supermarket play in the lives of the characters?

4. In the end, does Jack succeed in overcoming his fear of dying?

5. What is the significance of the stunning sunsets?

6. How is technology represented in the novel?

White noise delillo essay topics

White noise delillo essay topics

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