White Noise


Don DeLillo

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White Noise: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Later that week, the family sits down for dinner in front of the TV—their Friday night ritual. Babette believes that doing this will minimize the children’s desire to consume TV, effectively “de-glamoriz[ing]” the medium in their eyes.
In keeping with the idea of consumer culture’s aura, Babette seems to understand the alluring quality of TV—at the same time, though, she herself falls prey to its appeal, and her attempt to subvert its influence only draws her and her children closer to its mysterious influence.
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Jack describes how, when he founded the Hitler Studies department in 1968, his superior (whom he refers to as the “chancellor”) advised him to change his appearance in order to command the respect of others. He told Jack that the name Jack Gladney wasn’t authoritative enough. Together, they decided that Jack should go by J. A. K. Gladney. The chancellor also told him that he must “grow out” into Hitler, suggesting that Jack gain weight. Jack heeded this advice, also adding a pair of thick dark glasses. Despite his eager acceptance of the chancellor’s counsel, Jack admits: “I am the false character that follows the name around.”
Yet again, power is coupled with image. Jack initially follows this path of authoritative playacting to gain power, but it leaves him feeling empty and fraudulent despite his considerable success in Hitler studies. It’s worth noting that Hitler is depicted as a figure Jack must aspire toward rather than despise or approach warily; as such, Hitler comes to represent unchecked authority and power.
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