White Noise


Don DeLillo

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The Supermarket Symbol Analysis

The Supermarket Symbol Icon

In White Noise, the supermarket represents the myriad influences of consumerism on American culture. Portrayed by Murray as a “gateway or pathway” to spiritually charged levels of consciousness, the supermarket embodies the alluring quality of contemporary marketing and the power of the “psychic data” it projects onto the consumer. The shelves of products are full of this data, densely populated by branded labels, brightly colored packages, fine print, and loud product names. While Jack and his family visit this place to satisfy the simple necessity of buying groceries, their trips seem to also give them something more deeply existential, as if the supermarket has become a secular church, a place fraught with cultural significance. In one of his first monologues, Murray stands in the grocery store and delivers a monologue about the Tibetan notion of death as an art. “Here we don’t die, we shop,” he says, walking through the dairy aisle. In this way, the act of shopping becomes a life-affirming endeavor, something to stave off death. It’s no wonder, then, that Jack is drawn throughout the novel to the supermarket, which is the setting for many important conversations, including his first indication that Babette is taking Dylar. The supermarket is a place of conversation and revelation, a hub of interaction and connection to both people and the material world.

The Supermarket Quotes in White Noise

The White Noise quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Supermarket. 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
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Books edition of White Noise published in 2009.
Chapter 9 Quotes

Everything is concealed in symbolism, hidden by veils of mystery and layers of cultural material. But it is psychic data, absolutely. The large doors slide open, they close unbidden. Energy waves, incident radiation. All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. It is just a question of deciphering, rearranging, peeling off the layers of unspeakability. Not that we would want to, not that any useful purpose would be served.

Related Characters: Murray Jay Siskin (speaker), Jack Gladney, Babette
Related Symbols: The Supermarket
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Supermarket Symbol Timeline in White Noise

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Supermarket appears in White Noise. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...will someday die. One day after this happens, he and Babette run into Murray at the supermarket . Murray shows a clear attraction to Babette and holds forth about the various kinds... (full context)
Chapter 9
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Jack and Babette go with Denise, Steffie, and Wilder to the supermarket . Again, they bump into Murray, who predictably latches onto Babette and sings the praises... (full context)
Chapter 22
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...on new qualities, have become epically vibrant, and last much longer. He finds Murray in the supermarket , who tells him that one of the New York émigrés, Dimitrios Cotsakis, died while... (full context)
Chapter 37
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
...the fact that he doesn’t actually believe in any religion. Their walk winds them through the supermarket . Eventually, while emphasizing that he is speaking only theoretically, Murray says that if Jack... (full context)
Chapter 40
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
...decides to stay away, afraid of what he might learn. Finally, one day “without warning,” the supermarket shelves are rearranged. There is a discernable “agitation and panic in the aisles” as customers... (full context)