White Noise by Don Delillo – reflections

You will cease to be. To be, Jack. The dier accepts this and dies. The killer, in theory, attempts to defeat his own death by killing others. He buys time, he buys life. – Murray

This book is haunting, and it closes with a scene of disarrayed people  in the supermarket stocking up on colorful goods, anything they think they need, symbolic of the way we live wandering around, trying to add dimension to our lives until we ultimately die and succumb to its colorlessness. While at first the theme of death derives from Jack’s fear of death, as the book progresses death becomes a more present and persistent force. It finds it root in Dylar’s production, in Babette’s dependence on the drug, in her prostitution, in Jack’s attempt at murder… and the list goes on. Death becomes a more menacing force, taking over Jack’s life and becoming larger than life itself. Everything Jack does after his encounter with Nyodene D stems from his fear of death and his desire to run from it, overcome it, anything but accept it. In this sense, death becomes Jack’s sole purpose of living; it becomes the motivation and reason behind everything he does and thinks, and it swallows him whole. 

Jack’s attempt to murder Willie reveals Jack’s desperation to control death and to be free from his own. While he cannot give himself more time to live, he can take away another person’s time alive and in that sense control death. By controlling another person’s death, by rendering another person’s life and death insignificant, Jack renders his own death insignificant and nonthreatening. In this twisted way, Jack tries to take away the power of death by attempting murder. However he is ultimately still unable to escape death’s hold because his life becomes a series of reactions to his fear of death. He never fully transcends death by choosing to live for the sake of living itself, and instead just dies from the inside out, wandering meaninglessly and living in monotony, unaware of the whiteness that has already consumed him. He is now just waiting for physical death, but difference does it make?

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