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Free Study Guide for White Noise by Don Delillo-BookNotes Summary
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The real conflict in this novel is with death. Babette, Jack, Murray, and the rest all seem preoccupied with death and avoiding it. The manifestation of this conflict seems to come at the very end, when Jack confronts Willie and shoots him.


Jack Gladney is the protagonist. Not only is he the narrator, but he is also the focal character.


There is no formal antagonist, but if we define antagonist as the object of the protagonistís struggle and conflict, then death is the antagonist. Jackís constant fear of death and the morning when he believes that Babetteís father
is Death are prime examples to support death as the antagonist.


The climax of the novel comes when Jack tries to kill Willie and in the process, he is shot himself. This moment leads to the hospital, where both men are saved, and the last vestige of hope against death is defeated in the person of the atheistic German nun.


In effect, the novel ends with a greater sense of foreboding as well as a simultaneous sense of hope. The "white noise" is expanding, but the one character to whom the others look as a means to escape death, Wilder, is
going out on his own oblivious to the dangers that surround him. Instead of focusing on the remote presence of death in everything, he rides blindly into much more dangerous situations.


The plot is rather simple: an Airborne Toxic Event strikes a small college town. After a rather chaotic evacuation, the Gladneys are eventually allowed to come home. During this event, Jack is exposed to Nyodene D, which is
potentially deadly. SIMUVAC is not satisfied with the data from the event and decides that a simulation is needed to prepare the town. Babette has been secretly taking an experimental drug, Dylar, for which he provides sex to the drugs inventor, Minks. Jack eventually finds out and confronts her. In the end, Jack confronts Minks and is shot in the process.


Main Theme

The primary theme of this novel is that death underlies all aspects of popular culture. The glitz, packaging, and showiness of popular culture is an attempt to hide death beneath the surfaces, eventually allowing the people to forget or become dulled to death.

Minor Themes

One minor theme is that one cannot focus on death; one must live life and not "die slowly." Both the SIMUVAC computer person and Winnie present this belief to Jack.

A second minor theme is that we as a culture cannot see reality. The "Most Photographed Barn in America," SIMUVACís rejection of the real event in favor of the simulation, and the discussions between Heinrich and Jack about reality are all indicative of the culture dismissing the original, the real, in favor of the copy or simulation.


The mood of the novel is ironic. This novel repeatedly ironies contemporary culture and life. All of the clichés and stereotypes about contemporary America are presented as exaggerations, forcing the reader to see these not as
serious representations but as ironic renderings.


Don Delillo was born in New York in 1936. He is a contemporary American writer who has written numerous novels, including The Names, End Zone, Ratnerís Star, White Noise, Americana, Libra, Mao II, Great Jones Street, Running Dog, and Players. Most of his novels deal with contemporary American popular culture; at times they appear to critique contemporary culture while at others they seem to reveal in the kitsch.


Delilloís fiction should be considered as a literary version of Pop Art. He is conscious of this, even titling one of his novels, Mao II, after a silkscreen by Andy Warhol. Other novels of his focus on college football (End Zone) and
the John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy (Libra).

As part of contemporary American fiction, White Noise explores the interaction of the media and popular culture with high art. Aspects of consumer culture are strewn throughout the narrative for no other reason than to simulate the constant presence of products and advertisements in our lives.

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White Noise by Don Delillo-Free Chapter Summary Notes/Synopsis
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