White Noise


Don DeLillo

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Hitler Symbol Icon

More than any other figure in the book, Hitler stands for authority in Jack’s eyes. For one thing, his stature as the most feared man in history lends him a gravitas toward which Jack aspires, somehow finding a way to disregard questions of good and evil in the interest of focusing solely on the idea of power. Furthermore, Hitler represents stability for Jack, since his life existed in the past. By building his career on studying this long-deceased dictator, then, Jack creates a constant in his own life; when Tweedy Browner asks, “How is Hitler?” he responds, “Fine, solid, dependable.” As such, Hitler comes to symbolize one of the few things Jack feels he can actually count on in a life of uncertain anxieties. At the same time, Hitler also stands for Jack’s insecurities, since, despite his dominance over the study of this particular historical figure, he remains unable to speak German, rendering his knowledge of Hitler’s life incomplete. He finds himself ashamed of this intellectual shortcoming, a feeling that makes him feel fraudulent and inauthentic. This is the same kind of obsession with authority and control that makes him change his name to J. A. K Gladney and gain weight in order to “‘grow out’ into Hitler.” Just as Jack invests himself in Hitler’s image rather than his horrific actions, he throws himself into his own outward appearance in order to compensate for his insecurities and shortcomings.

Hitler Quotes in White Noise

The White Noise quotes below all refer to the symbol of Hitler. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Chapter 14 Quotes

[…] it’s not a question of greatness. It’s not a question of good and evil. I don’t know what it is. Look at it this way. Some people always wear a favorite color. Some people carry a gun. Some people put on a uniform and feel bigger, stronger, safer. It’s in this area that my obsessions dwell.

Related Characters: Jack Gladney (speaker), Babette, Denise
Related Symbols: Hitler
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
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Hitler Symbol Timeline in White Noise

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hitler appears in White Noise. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
...and Gothic churches, as well as an old insane asylum. The chairman of the College-on-the-Hill’s Hitler Studies department, Jack lives in a suburban house at the end of a quiet street... (full context)
Chapter 3
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...the powerful elegance it lends his gestures. Because there is no building dedicated solely to Hitler studies, the department shares its offices with the popular culture department, which the college calls... (full context)
Chapter 4
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
Jack describes how, when he founded the Hitler Studies department in 1968, his superior (whom he refers to as the “chancellor”) advised him... (full context)
Chapter 6
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
...authority. Toward the end of the lecture, a student asks about the plot to kill Hitler, and Jack finds himself saying, “All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature... (full context)
Chapter 8
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Despite the fact that Jack is the head of the Hitler Studies department, he doesn’t speak a word of German. He is deeply embarrassed about this,... (full context)
Chapter 12
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Chapter 15
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 36
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
In the late spring, the Hitler conference takes place. Jack manages to make his opening remarks in stilted German, but he... (full context)