Death is probably the most feared word in the English language. Its undesired uncertainty threatens society's desire to believe that life never ends. Don DeLillo's novel White Noise tells the bizarre story of how 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 DeLillo's story.
Perhaps, the character most responsive to death is Jack Gladney. In fact, 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.
Jack uses the supermarket as his base for his consumer lifestyle and a place to escape, which is validated by the interpretation of his friend and colleague Murray Siskind. Murray views the supermarket as almost a holy place, an atmosphere with rays and "white noise" everywhere. It's full of psychic data
.Everything is concealed in symbolism, hidden by veils of mystery and layers of cultural material
The large doors Irlbeck 3
slide open, they close unbidden
.All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. It is just a question of deciphering, rearranging, peeling off the layers of unspeakability
. We don't have to cling to life artificially, or to death for that matter. We simply walk toward the sliding doors. Waves and radiation. Look how well-lighted the place is. The place is sealed off, self-contained
. It is timeless
. Here we don't die, we shop. But the difference is less marked than you think (DeLillo 37-38).
John N. Duvall, author of...
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DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin Books 1999.
Duvall, John N. "The (Super)Marketplace of Images: Television as Unmediated
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