White Noise by Don Delillo – impressions

The novel places a huge emphasis on death and on science. Jack, the protagonist, is so crippled by his fear of death that he is unable to enjoy life. Instead of spurring Jack to treasure life and seize the moment, his fear of death makes him waste time worrying about when and how he will die. Jack’s concern over who will die first between him and his wife Babette also reveals his fear of loneliness. Both Jack and Babette are terrified of dying, but they are more afraid of being left behind, and adamantly insist on dying before the other. This fear of loneliness is ironic and contrasts the sheer size of their family, which is a combination of previous families.

The novel also explores how technology and science play a role in society. The television and radio seem to govern and direct Jack’s thought process, and it is disturbing to see how much the inanimate man-made products can influence a natural, living being. Phrases from television interrupt Jack’s internal dialogues and observations multiple times, and Jack even turns off the radio in one scene so that he can stop thinking.

Science is not only portrayed as a medium of human thought, but also as a highly powerful and prevalent factor of life. The toxic cloud of Nyodene Derivative is a man-made chemical that threatens to severely damage the human body, and it becomes a source of awe because of its great power to destroy. Babette mentions in one scene that the greater the scientific advance, the more primitive her fear. She reveals her concern that science is developing at a pace too fast for the creators themselves to control, and this is true both in her experience with the toxic cloud and in modern society with nuclear weaponry and biochemical warfare. And yet, science has taken a firm place in Jack’s society, so much that science and technology are vital for life. They depend on pills for vitamins, computer programs to check their health, and cars to evacuate from the chemical leak.


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