White Noise

Themes and Colors
Fear, Death, and Control Theme Icon
Uncertainty and Authority Theme Icon
Consumer Culture and Identity Theme Icon
Plots and History Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in White Noise, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

White Noise, a book about the influence of fear on human life, focuses on small everyday worries, as well as deep, existential crises. The novel’s most prominent manifestation of fear is the characters’ hopeless quest to control their own mortality: frightfully obsessing over their health, jogging up and down stadium steps, reading food labels with a dire sense of dread, and carefully considering the physical effects of chemicals with which they may have come…

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White Noise is awash in uncertainty. Even the name evokes a nonspecific quality, white noise being an indistinct, indescribable stream of sound. Jack’s deepest fear is of his own death, and this fear is shown to center on the uncertainty of death—not knowing what death will be like and when it will come. In fact, Jack is so uncomfortable with uncertainty that, when his son Heinrich wants to get a rise out of him…

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By associating moments of transcendence with trivial and vapid artifacts of popular culture, DeLillo blurs the line between spiritual existence and consumer culture. When Jack hears Steffie mutter Toyota Celica in her sleep, he admits: “The utterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder. It was like the name of an ancient power in the sky […]. Whatever its source, the utterance struck me with the impact of a moment of splendid transcendence.” As…

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Jack is fascinated by history and conspiracy and the relationship of both to death. Through these fascinations with plots and history, he seeks new ways to clarify, define, and eke meaning out of his existence, hoping to alleviate the banal but overwhelming existential anxiety from which he suffers.

When a student asks him in class about the plot to kill Hitler, he says, “All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of…

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