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White Noise | Motifs



Hardly a chapter goes by in White Noise without a character mentioning death in one form or another. Both Jack and Babette Gladney have a fear of death—each others' and their own—that drives them to drastic action. Jack Gladney habitually reads the obituaries and finds comfort in the town cemetery. Murray Siskind compares the supermarket to The Tibetan Book of the Dead and advises Jack that he can be "a killer or a dier." By embedding death so thoroughly in the fabric of the novel, Don DeLillo suggests that perhaps death is the most prominent white noise of all, hovering in the background and jutting up against the characters' sense of mortality at every turn.


Tabloids play an ongoing role as a source of "white noise" in the novel. They are prominently featured in the checkout aisles at the supermarket where Jack and Babette spend much of their time, and Babette even reads them to the elderly. The tabloids mix fact and fantasy, but the characters in the novel don't seem to care about parsing out what is true and what isn't. One of Jack's final observations in Part 3, Chapter 40 is that "Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks." It's no coincidence that Babette discovers the drug trial for Dylar in the tabloid ads—they exist at the intersection of reality and fantasy.

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