White Noise


Don DeLillo

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White Noise: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Returning from his German lessons, Jack finds Babette’s ex-husband, Bob Pardee, in the kitchen. Bob, who is Denise’s biological father, wants to take everyone to dinner. Jack drives Babette to Old Man Treadwell’s house, where she is supposed to read to the blind man from the tabloids, as she does every week. When they get there, though, Treadwell is missing. Perplexed, they report the disappearance to the police and then go meet Bob Pardee and the rest of the family for dinner at the Dinky Donut outside of town. During the meal, Jack reads from Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf and periodically watches the strained yet affectionate way Babette and Bob interact, understanding from experience the complicated feelings that pass between ex-lovers. The next day, authorities search the river for Treadwell’s body.
In this moment, Jack and Babette’s fractured and emotionally complex past lives prove themselves capable of careening into the present. Jack appears aware of the deeply-sown personal history that inherently runs between ex-lovers, and the only reason Babette’s clear affection for Bob doesn’t bother him is because he himself knows—from past divorces—how such feelings come and go without meaning. Like anything else in White Noise, history and romance present fleeting conundrums that hinge upon emotional uncertainty. This, however, is one of the very few times Jack finds himself capable of existing comfortably in the face of something vague and difficult to understand.
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon