White Noise


Don DeLillo

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White Noise: Chapter 27 Summary & Analysis

Jack goes for his second medical examination since the airborne toxic event. On his way back, he comes across an evacuation drill carried out by SIMUVAC. A number of people are lying in the middle of the street, pretending to be victims. Among them, Jack spots Steffie, who apparently volunteered to help with the simulation. He wonders if his daughter, who is only nine-years-old, already has oriented her worldview such that she considers herself a victim. “Is this the future she envisions?” he wonders. At home, he finds Heinrich sitting on the front steps with a clipboard. He too is participating in the simulation—his role is that of a “street captain.” Heinrich is accompanied by Orest Mercator, whom Jack curiously questions, asking him about his strange goal to sit in a cage with deadly snakes for days on end. Jack tries to convince him that the snakes will bite him and that the Guinness World Record book is something for which it’s not worth risking his life.
Everywhere Jack looks, death confronts him. Whether this is in the hypothetical realm (as represented by the evacuation simulation) or in a more tangible sense (as represented by Orest’s dangerous goal), he can’t seem to escape the threat of mortality. To make matters worse, Steffie and Orest’s interest in death apparently indicates that the younger generation will be even more obsessed with death than he is.
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In the kitchen, Jack and Babette treat one another gently, asking one another how they’re feeling. This has been their custom since their vulnerable and intense late-night conversation about Dylar. At one point, Jack asks about where the bottle of Dylar went, since it’s not under the radiator. She tells him that she has no idea and warns him against trying to take the drug himself, since he hasn’t been pre-tested. He denies the fact that he wants to try the medication and asks how he can find Mr. Gray, just in case he wants to sue him. Babette refuses to give him this information. Later, Jack finds Denise, who confesses that she took the Dylar. She tries to reason with her stepfather by telling him that she will give it back if he tells her what it’s used for. Unwilling to do so, he spends the next several days trying to figure out how to trick her into giving him the medication.
Despite the fact that his children’s generation is clearly very conscious of death—worrying constantly about toxic chemicals and the dangerous ingredients contained in everyday food—Jack tries to protect Denise, refusing to tell her that her mother fears death. He appears to want to protect her innocence and naïveté, though the very idea that he is protecting her from knowing her mother’s fear is, in itself, naïve given her vast exposure to the inescapability of death.
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