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WHITE NOISE BY DON DELILLO - FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE
Jack and Babette are in bed and he is pleading with her to give him Gray’s real name. Babette knows that he either wants to kill Gray or get started on Dylar and she does not want him to do either; she refuses to give him the information. Later, at school, Jack spots Winnie, chases her around the school, and finally catches her and they watch the sunset together. Jack wants to tell her what he knows about Dylar and see if she can present him with any further information. She answers him: I think it’s a mistake to lose one’s sense of death, even one’s fear of death. . . Doesn’t it give a precious texture to life, a sense of definition? You have to ask yourself whether anything you do in this life would have beauty and meaning without the knowledge you carry a final line."
Jack is becoming truly obsessed with Dylar and Mr. Gray. He wants the drug and he wants to kill Gray. Winnie warns him against this obsession, and in another one of the lucid moments of the novel, tells Jack that removing the fear of death will make life less precious. Compared to most of the other characters in the novel, this is useful and insightful. Whether or not one really gains an appreciation of life by being afraid of death is difficult to say, but nonetheless, it is a positive way to avoid obsessing over death.
The Gladneys are at a drive-in diner eating chicken and engaging in a discussion about perspective and space, but no one can get his/her information correct. In order to explain the discrepancies, they claim that the problems are semantic.
Like the earlier conversation dealing with llamas and Dakar, this conversation reveals the degree to which each person knows a little information and supplements that information with a lot of guessing and assuming. One of the problems with having the radio or television on at all times is that there is a constant stream of information into the brain, but stations and channels can be changed without the hearer realizing it, and the hearer can miss out on vital transitions. Again, too much unfiltered information can be chaotic.
Murray and Jack are talking about his German lessons and what makes Dunlop seem so weird. They cannot decide what exactly it is until Murray calls four days later to say, "He looks like a man who finds dead bodies erotic." That night the asylum burns down and Jack and Heinrich drive to watch. When they arrive, there are lots of fathers and sons bonding. Heinrich and Jack both share the trivia that they know about fires. Murray comes over and shakes their hands, and then leaves. As the fire begins to die down, an acrid smell starts to overwhelm people. Jack says that he and the others feel betrayed because "we’d been forced to recognize the existence of a second kind of death. One was real, the other synthetic." They go home and Jack falls asleep thinking about Mr. Gray.
The fact that so many fathers and sons use the asylum fire as a bonding moment is important. Delillo is showing how humanity has (d)evolved. Instead of going out on a hunt together, modern fathers and sons must supplement their rituals with other events. In this case, father and son share in the destruction of a house, and more importantly, the share in a public spectacle; each can say that he was there when the asylum burned down, and each can remember who he shared the moment with.
The one problem with this event is that the spectacle is broken with an acrid smell. This is not what the bystanders expected; it shook them from their fantasy and brought them back to the realm of the real. The presence of a "real death" at this scene is what frightens them and what causes them to head home.
Jack wakes up and sees Wilder at the foot of his bed. Jack looks out the back window and sees a old figure in a wicker chair. He does not know who it is but assumes it is Death or Death’s errand-runner. Jack washes his hands and tries to hide but the figure is still there. He looks in on Heinrich sleeping and then on Babette sleeping. He goes down to the kitchen and sees the figure come toward him and finally recognizes that it is Vernon Dickey, his father- in-law. Babette comes in, surprised, and then they begin talking about old times, with each one filling in what the other has forgotten.
Denise catches Jack looking for the Dylar. He says that he wants it for the psychological effect. She finally tells him that she put it in the trash compactor a week earlier.
Vernon asks Jack to go outside and gives him a gun. He tries to refuse but Vernon is insistent. When he prepares to leave, he lists quite a few health problems but says not to worry.
We can see truly how frightened Jack is of death when he believes that he sees Death in the back yard. One must really be obsessed to believe that Death is a physical hooded person who dresses in black and carries a scythe. Jack does. In an ironic twist, Death, who is actually Babette’s father, becomes Death by giving Jack a gun.
White Noise by Don Delillo-Free Chapter Summary Notes/Synopsis