Literature Study GuidesWhite NoisePart 3 Chapter 36 Summary

White Noise | Study Guide

Don DeLillo

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White Noise | Part 3, Chapter 36 : Dylarama | Summary



Heinrich's mother, Janet Savory, calls Jack Gladney and asks him to send Heinrich to her ashram in Montana. Jack agrees to let Heinrich go in the summer as long as he doesn't get involved in the ashram's religion. Privately, Jack worries the ashram may be able to provide Heinrich with spiritual answers that he can't.

Jack's Hitler conference begins, and 90 Hitler scholars arrive to attend. Jack welcomes them, and gives the opening address in German. The rest of the time, he tries to hide in his office to avoid speaking. He often finds himself thinking about his hidden gun, and wonders if he is immersing himself in secrets.

Jack drives out to the medical facility for further tests, and sits down to answer some questions after the tests are run and the numbers are ready. As he gives answers, he feels confident in the doctor's assurances that he is healthy, until the doctor asks him if he has ever been exposed to toxic chemicals—they have found traces of Nyodene Derivative in his bloodstream, which can lead to a growth called a "nebulous mass."


The Hitler conference is the culmination of everything Jack Gladney has been studying German for, but the conference is given very little narrative attention; the little that happens is relayed by the narrator in summary rather than in scenes of dialogue. Jack relates that he gives a bizarre speech composed only of words that sound the same in both English and German. Jack is emotionally disconnected from the work taking place at the conference, and he spends most of the conference avoiding people, for fear he will have to speak German. His avoidance further highlights the hollowness of his persona as the world's leading Hitler scholar.

Jack's frequent visits to the doctor reveal that he anxiously needs reassurance he is healthy, despite the fact that no side effects from his exposure to the airborne toxic event will appear for another 15 years. Despite the battery of tests, the doctor can't give Jack any more than the vague information he already has. Even armed with a printout of data, the doctor can give Jack no sense of its meaning. The only new information Jack gets is the term nebulous mass. The word nebulous literally means "foggy" or "cloudy," and metaphorically it means "obscure"; the thing growing inside Jack evades all attempts to decode its meaning. In a comic exchange, the doctor, when pressed, says the mass could "cause a person to die," and Jack retorts, "Speak English, for God's sake. I despise the modern jargon." There is a kernel of truth in Jack's joke: even the plainest language explains nothing, because he still doesn't know when or how he will die. Or why he must.

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