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WHITE NOISE BY DON DELILLO - FREE ONLINE NOTES
Jack confronts Babette again about Dylar and she finally tells him about it. She says that she had been depressed and happened to see an add in a tabloid for research tests for a psychobiotic drug. She was one of three supposedly chosen for the trial; the doctor, Mr. Gray, told her that the drug could potentially kill her, her brain, some part of her brain, or make her lose the ability to distinguish word from object. The doctors decided that the risks were too great to go on with the experiment, but Babette wanted the drug so bad that she arranged a deal with Gray in which she would have sex with him for the drug. Jack is upset and finally Babette tells him that the drug was designed to suppress the human fear of death. Jack is even more upset with her fear; he claims that he is the family member obsessed with death. The two of them try to outdo the other when it comes to being focused on death. According to Babette, Dylar works by sending chemicals to the part of the brain that is triggered by the fear of death and blocking the fear chemicals. Babette tells him that she has been depressed lately because the drug is no longer working. Jack tells her about his exposure to the Airborne Toxic Event and the fact that he now has death in him.
Here we get the background for the Dylar sections. One of the ironic side effects of the drug that supposedly blocks the fear of death is death itself. Babette and Jack have a short argument concerning who is the most obsessed with death; each wants desperately to win. It is as if being the most afraid is somehow a means of protection from death.
Jack visits his doctor, Sundar Chakravarty, and is told that there is no detectable death yet. On the way home he sees a SIMUVAC van and his daughter Steffie lying in the road. One of the SIMUVAC personnel announces that the reason they are rehearsing is to decrease the chance of a real disaster happening. He adds that the simulation is the thing; if a real accident occurs (i.e. car crash, fire, etc.) during the situation, it is important to ignore it and keep playing one’s part in the simulation. Jack continues on his way home and sees Heinrich, a street captain, who also says that "The more you practice something, the less likely it is to happen." Heinrich also introduces him to Orest Mercator. Jack asks him why he wants to die for a few lines in a record book, but Orest says that the snakes will not bite him, but cannot say why they won’t.
Jack wants Babette to tell him where the remaining Dylar are, but she will not tell him because she knows that he wants to take (ingest) them. One day while he is picking up Denise he asks her to give them to him, assuming that she has taken them. She refuses unless he tells her what they are for, which he will not do.
SIMUVAC is running a simulation because the more prepared a community is, the less likely it is to be struck by a disaster. Again, conventional "Murphy’s Law" wisdom is being applied. By watching disasters on TV, the Gladneys and the rest of Blacksmith have come to believe that only the unprepared are struck by disaster. However, what they fail to take into consideration is that the media tend to show only the worst disasters, and if a city is well prepared, then the outcome will not be so chaotic and thus not so bad (and also, not so exciting to watch).
Steffie’s mother wants her to come visit, but she says that she cannot because she has signed up to be a victim again; this time she is the victim of a "funny smell." Later, Jack is having lunch with Murray and the émigrés, Alfonse Stompanato, Elliot Lasher, and Grappa, and they are discussing certain events common to their upbringings and the popular culture events that surrounded them. Grappa then talks about the pleasure of imagining oneself dead. This makes Jack very uncomfortable, forcing him to quickly finish his lunch and leave. Murray meets him outside; Jack asks if death is all they ever talk about. Murray mentions that whenever he got together with writers, the only topic of discussion was sex and death. Jack points out that sex and death are two subjects and does not want to think that they are inextricably linked. Jack asks Murray about his car crash class and he answers that he believes that car crashes are technologies attempts at suicide. He adds that the car crashes are about innocence, a kind of violent but primal passion and energy. They are life affirming, celebratory, and a confirmation of traditional values.
Murray and Jack’s discussion concerning whether or not sex and death are inextricably linked is the most important aspect of this chapter. This question is quite old: the Tao links sex and death; Christianity and Judaism link them. Freud repeatedly was troubled by the idea of there being two separate drives, a sex drive and a death drive, and it seems like he really wanted the sex drive to be part of the death drive. Jack is invested in them being separate because whenever he is afraid of death, he either has sex with Babette or lies down with her. However, this itself is a linking: if one’s response to death is sex, then sex becomes linked by the individual’s supplementing of death with sex.
Babette and Jack go to the supermarket and Babette is afraid to be alone for even a moment. Jack goes to his German lesson but cannot even read the simple title of a book on Dunlop’s table. Jack goes home and begins throwing old things of his away. He watches TV news coverage of two bodies being unearthed. He is told that there could be up to thirty more. Two days later he finds Heinrich still watching the live coverage; they are both disappointed when no more bodies have been discovered.
Babette and Jack are becoming more frightened and so the supermarket becomes one of their safe places. So long as they are shopping, they are alive. Besides, one can seem them arguing that a dying person would not waste time buying groceries; therefore, since they are buying groceries, they are not dying.
Jack is further exposed as laughable when we see that he can not read a simple German title on Dunlop’s desk. Jack truly is a superficial scholar when it comes to Hitler.
White Noise by Don Delillo-Free Chapter Summary Notes/Synopsis