Death is probably the most feared word in the English language. Its undesired uncertainty threatens society’s desire to believe that life never ends. Jack Gladney and his family illustrate the postmodern ideas of religion, death, and popular culture. The theme of death’s influence over the character mentality, consumer lifestyle, and media manipulation is used often throughout the story. As Babette notes when she confesses her fear to Jack, “What is more underlying than death?” Everything in the novel from Hitler to the supermarket, from the airborne toxic event to the white noise of the novel’s title circles back to human beings’ primal, deep-seated fear of dying.
The character most responsive to death is Jack Gladney. He is so consumed by his fear of death that his ordinary thought processes are often interrupted by the question: “Who will die first” (DeLillo 15)? In Jack’s mind: “This question comes up from time to time, like where are the car keys” (DeLillo 15). Jack finds the aura of death to be very noticeable and real, and he relies on his consumer lifestyle as an escape from his fear of death. Each character in the novel approaches death in different contradictory ways. Jack and Babette approach it with terror. Heinrich faces death dispassionately and analytically. Murray sees death all around him and remains continually fascinated and engaged by it. Winnie Richards notes that death adds texture to life, while Jack and Babette would give anything to avoid it.
DeLillo avoids drawing any distinct conclusions himself, preferring to leave the novel in an open state, this close... [continues]
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