Postmodernism in White Noise





Postmodernism in White Noise


The narrative is based on a series of events that differentiates e concepts of an American modern life and the effects of postmodern occurrences to this life. Jack Gladney, the main character is a professor of Hitler studies and already in his fifth marriage. He and his wife have children, and his closest friend is a weird man named Murray. The conceptualization of reality at the beginning of the narrative shows that not most of what people say or perceive appears as so (DeLillo 20). The tranquility of the scenery, for instance, changes fast, and the cloud of smoke that interferes with their lives is the beginning of an illustration of the extent technology has a mind of its own. The instructions to evacuate homes causes panic and at the same time, Jack’s exposure to the toxic substance marks as a definite sign of death. Many other occurrences contribute to the sudden turmoil in Jack’s life, some of which the last chapter of the book draws together to explain the author’s perception of postmodern effects on a perfectly normal modern family. This is therefore illustrated in a number of concerns through the characters’ reactions and overall activities in the narrative.


In previous chapters, the struggle to escape the toxic wastes is the highlight of the narrative and the desperation and fear throughout the area explains the understanding the characters draw from all the occurrences (Müller-Funk 17). These circumstances have crippled many characters among them Jack to whom death has become an unwavering reality. This adds to the grief in finding out about his wife’s affair making his worries flare and worsen the situation due to anger and vengeful feelings against Murray. Murray in the narrative shows that he believes that both life and death is a plot as he states that, “To plot is to affirm life, to seek shape and control.’ (DeLillo 23) However, Jack realizes that with his impending death, he deserves to seek revenge against Mink another indication of the fear of death and its probable attack at any time.

            In addition to this, Jack continuously seeks out a doctor because his fear of death makes him hope for a solution and an alternative way out (Müller-Funk 14). Despite how much his death is certain, these scenarios show that Jack is not prepared to accept death and in chapter 26, he has a conversation with Babette, to whom he gathers the courage and acceptance to equate the toxic waste to death when he finally says, “What if death is nothing but sound? Electrical noise, You hear it forever. Sound all around, how awful, Uniform, white.” (DeLillo 33) Similarly, he develops an acute fear of sounds and noises, such as the sounds of the television, radio and the people in his life that according to the narrative is yet another integral part showing Jack’s slow transition in coming to terms with death. The realization that the development of weird habits such as the study of the life of Hitler and his failed marriages started long ago is also a strong indicator that death has been in his mind for quite a long time.

The last chapter is however different because it shows what Jack has been trying to understand and in actual sense, what he has actually understood. This is because, since the beginning, the novel has been moving towards a sad and a very tragic conclusion. However, that changes because it gets to a point where he manages to conjure up an optimistic note exercising compassion, confidence, and acceptance (Goodwin 29). For starters, when he shoots Murray with the intention to kill him, he realizes that he does not necessary wish to see him death and therefore, he holds back his urge and takes the injured man to hospital where he recovers. Concerning the doctor visits, he feels that there is no need anymore and he decides to stop going and just live each day as it comes by spending lovely moments with his family such as watching the sunset with Babette and taking walks to the supermarket (Müller-Funk 17). His appreciation for the things around him changes especially after realizing that his son’s perception about death was so much lighter than an adult’s is. Similarly, he realizes that people are surprised at the changes in the supermarket and the difficult labels that are only clearly read by machines. Everything around him is advancing and changing due to technology that is much more advanced and unexplainable and this is when he understands that in food and in bad, the post modern occurrences shape things that appear even better in the already modern world.

            In this context therefore, every depiction of Jack’s reasoning and acceptance is an emulation of the author’s engagement about the postmodern occurrences and approaches. This is because the occurrences within the book appear to have advanced to such extents that they are no longer controlled by man but rather, they tend to control themselves (Müller-Funk 28). A perfect example in which the character of Jack tries to place this kind of illustration, is in creating a distinction between the occurrences that acquisition of technology caused and those that caused themselves due to the complications of the technology. In the beginning of Chapter 6 for instance, he states that, “Man’s guilt in history and in the tides of his own blood has been complicated by technology, the daily seeping false-hearted death.” (DeLillo 21) This is especially so when he related the premature thinning of the hair on his son’s head and the lack of understanding in what people are accountable for or not accountable for when it comes to technology. The whole perception that technology is beyond human control such that certain situations including the airborne incidence makes it possible to induce death in yet another scholarly observation that shows the post modern scenario is above the modern occurrences all in relation to technology and technological effects.

            In Chapter 30, the same is portrayed as the author narrates, “Another postmodern sunset, rich in romantic imagery. Why try to describe it? It’s enough to say that everything in our field of vision seemed to exist in order to gather the light of this event.” This is relation to yet another postmodern perspective whereby Jack chases Winnie Richards to a hilltop and they both stare at the sunset. Due to the toxic waste effect, another profound event that they cannot account for, the horizon has developed a unique and beautiful sight that has made everything more spectacular. The author attempts to explain that the fact that it is impossible to explain the pleasures derived from the constant repetition in what makes an individual achieve pleasure in difficulty is a postmodern experience(Goodwin 34). The aspect of post modernity would be greatly reduced if all the sunsets were as they are and the technological effect had not improved the actual appearance in value and identity.


The narrative, the White Noise, is an example of a postmodern-based setting where the occurrences in most cases are different, unexpected, and modernized. The theme used in this case is an example of this scenario whereby, the story of the main character Jack revolves around his ability to build a life surrounded by family and a professional community in an advancing economy. Technology, family, death, change, and modern culture are the themes most depicted in this case and as seen, there is a possibility that a human being reinvests and rediscovers himself in the modern world. The ability to lose track of oneself is possible when what happens around us is sudden and in most cases, out of control. White Noise however shows that reality is but a collection of people’s perspectives and that despite the difficulty to find common sense it eventually comes to use through appreciation and realization of change among other different concepts. The modern age generally shows therefore that danger becomes constant, change inevitable and the younger generations develop the ability to understand complex matters better that their parents.

            Jack as a character has played a vital role in this narrative therefore and it is certain that the author’s perception has been emulated to a much deeper extent especially in relation to this. The occurrences have shown that there is indeed a difference between the modern world and the postmodern one because, in the former, technology is adopted and utilized for the benefit of the community and the economy but the latter is unexplainable (Goodwin 27). This is especially because technology itself takes over and becomes its own drive and it is therefore difficult to accord responsibility or blame on who was responsible in the first place. This is a very educative and enlightening piece and the author gives sufficient illustrations and satisfactory evidence to readers to support the same.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Don Delillo’s White Noise. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2003. Print.

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York, NY: Viking, 1985. Print.

Goodwin, C J. A History of Modern Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005. Print.

Müller-Funk, Wolfgang. The Architecture of Modern Culture: Towards a Narrative Cultural Theory. , 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on White Noise.” SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

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