White Noise


Don DeLillo

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White Noise: Chapter 35 Summary & Analysis

The days go by. Babette begins wearing her sweat suit at all hours of the day and spending large amounts of time with Wilder, which is the only activity that seems to alleviate her fear of death. Jack can’t get his mind off of Mr. Gray, but Babette continues to withhold the man’s information. One night, Jack takes Heinrich and Orest out to dinner and quizzes his son’s friend yet again about his desire to sit in a cage full of deadly snakes. By the end of the conversation, he harbors a slight admiration for the boy’s bravery and willpower.
Jack recognizes in Orest a carefree quality he himself doesn’t posses. Fully aware of the fact that his problems stem primarily from his psychological viewpoint—his inability to give himself over to the natural inevitability of death—he finds himself appreciating Orest’s utter stupidity, which is the antithesis of everything keeping Jack from happiness.
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Three days after a SIMUVAC evacuation for noxious odor, an actual noxious odor comes into town from across the river. The citizens of Blacksmith seem to become nicer during this period, and nobody makes any moves to evacuate. Their nostrils sting and they taste copper on their tongues, but still they resolve to do nothing about the odor. Many claim not to see the irony in the fact that they participated in the SIMUVAC exercise and then refused to evacuate when the actual event occurred. Some people guess that the “absence of technical personnel” means that the situation is not dangerous or serious. Then, without warning, the noxious odor disappears.
Once again, death and danger are presented as more philosophically problematic than actually harmful. In the world of White Noise, the most important thing is to maintain a strong theoretical grip on the idea of danger; DeLillo holds this up—not without a considerable degree of irony—as more crucial than actually living in a safe manner. In other words, thinking is more important than doing. This is, of course, in keeping with the way DeLillo satirizes the heady yet impractical lines of academic thought, which often neglect to address pragmatic concerns.
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
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