White Noise


Don DeLillo

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White Noise: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Because Murray is having trouble establishing his authority over Elvis in the American Environments department, Jack visits one of his lectures as a way of using his institutional power to help his friend. After listening for a short while, he adds to Murray’s lecture, pacing around the classroom as the two of them trade anecdotes about Hitler and Elvis’s respective mothers. Finally, Murray willingly cedes the floor to Jack, at which point Jack goes on at length about the crowds Hitler attracted, eventually making his way to an examination of death, arguing that “to break off from the crowd is to risk death as an individual, to face dying alone.” At one point, Alfonse and his entire class enters the room to watch the lecture, as if it is some kind of fantastic spectacle. At the end, everybody crowds around Jack, who realizes suddenly that they now constitute a crowd. “Not that I needed a crowd around me now,” he notes. “Least of all now. Death [is] strictly a professional matter here.”
Jack once again invests himself in the power of crowds to reinforce power and, thus, steel people against the fear of death. When he watched the parents and students on the first day of classes, he felt a strong sense of community amongst them, seeing them as members of an elite crowd. This led him and Babette to think that these people were in some way exempt from the possibility of death. In keeping with this, Jack’s lecture puts him at the center of a crowd, thereby pacifying his fear of death so much that he finds himself capable of writing it off as merely a “professional matter.”
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
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