White Noise

Confronting Death in White Noise

In his 1985 novel White Noise, Don DeLillo paints a modern society that is composed of systems too great to comprehend, putting control out of the hands of individuals. Don DeLillo crafts a postmodern society governed by cryptic systems, a world in which individuals are alienated from reality by technological codes and formulas dictate success. Dellilo challenges the postmodern thought that academics, technology and institutions can answer the questions of life and death and offers death as a shared burden and final resolution.

In Jack's life the fear of death is a force that operates in a system outside of his control. This unknown system became an all-consuming force beginning at age twenty; this desperation for answers has lead to Jack's invention of a Hitler studies academic program. DeLillo explores how Jack integrates into a larger system to via formality. Jack’s professional status as a Hitler Studies department head gives Jack the formal distance of academia he needs from this fear: "Death was strictly a professional matter here" (74). At the same time, Jack is very close to the ideas of death. He deals with his fear of death by studying and attempting to embody Hitler, the "master of...

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