The novel White Noise describes the life of the narrator, Jack Gladney and in particular, his academic life, as a college professor in an American town. The novel explains how Jack teaches in a College-on-the-Hill, where he serves as a department chair in the Hitler studies. In addition, it provides a detailed analysis of the achievements that Jack was able to bring on board while his time in the department. The novel is divided into two parts: Waves and Radiation and The Airborne Toxic.
In the novel, there are different characters used to explore the theme of the novel. Jack Gladney is one of the major characters. He is the narrator and the main character in this novel. According to the theme of the novel, Jack suffers two linked fears; namely the fears of his own life, and the fear that he could be exposed as an incompetent person. As the chair of the Hitler studies, he paints himself as an intelligent and distinguished person that is in contrast to the real him. Jack fears of his own death. Jack said, “All plots move deathward. This is the nature of plots. This is the nature of plots” (DeLillo, 2011). This forms the main idea that is discussed in the novel. This can be seen from his study of Hitler that speaks of fear of death.
In addition, his fear becomes more exposed when he is threatened by toxic chemical, Nyodene D. In spite of the suggestions of the technicians that the chemical remains in the body for long, he is anxious and fearful of his life. Babette is Jack’s fourth wife. She is described as a loving mother and good spouse to her husband. She bakes cookies for her children and talks to her husband about everything in her leisure time. She also helps the blind and the elderly. This is in contrast to Jack’s past wives who were secretive. This makes Jack to be comfortable in his marriage.
However, Babette changes her personality to a cynical and secretive person by hiding the experiment with the doctor. Since, she was sleeping with the doctor in exchange of the Dylar pills. This reflects a change in her nature of identity. Murray Jay Siskind is another character in the novel. He is a college professor who is revealed tough and much connected to the media. Murray has devoted his life to academics. He also constantly uses academic and intellectual language in his day-to-day life. In addition, Murray seems to have an analysis of everything around him. Willie Mink is another figure who makes a short appearance in the end of the novel. However, before his appearance in the novel he is already known as the corrupt project manager, the cartel of the drug Dylar. Willie has an affair with Babette in the supposed aim of eradicating the fear of dying of Babette. This character presents the main course of Jack’s jealousy and the only lead of Jack obtaining the drug Dylar. Other characters in the novel include the three children of Jack and Babette: Wilder, Denise, and Steffie.
The novel explores various themes that help to build the idea of the author. The fear of death is the center theme of the novel. Babette reveals her fear to Jack, “what is more underlying than death?” (DeLillo, 2011). This theme covers the whole novel from the Hitler through the supermarket and from the airborne event to the novel title White Noise. This reveals the fear of humans of dying. In the novel, different characters take contradicting ways of fear of death. For example, Jack approaches death with terror. Murray sees death all over him. However, he continues trying to figure out how to handle it. Technology has also been brought out in the novel. The existence of technology in the novel provides both comfort and trouble. In the novel, the quote, “Man’s guilt in history and the tides of his own of his own blood has been complicated by technology, the daily seeping falsehearted death” (DeLillo, 2011). It shows how Jack wonders about the hair loss in his son due to proximity to chemicals and thus questions the role, which technology plays in bringing death.
The modern technology is attributed to the presence of humming machines and the stream of media sounds and images. The mention of ATM provides Jack with the confirmations of his financial calculations. In addition, other events in the airborne event reveal the use of technology. Another theme that is depicted in the novel is the tension between reality and artifice. Throughout the theme, it can be seen there is much confusion between appearance and reality shown by Jack’s existence. This leads Jack to feel inadequate. Other themes tackled in the novel include love that is depicted by the love of Babette shown to the blind and the elderly.