Literature Study GuidesWhite NoisePart 3 Chapters 22 24 Summary

White Noise | Study Guide

Don DeLillo

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White Noise | Part 3, Chapters 22–24 : Dylarama | Summary



Part 3, Chapter 22

Things begin returning to normal, and Jack Gladney finds himself back at the supermarket with Wilder. They run into Murray Siskind, who tells Jack that one of their colleagues, Dimitrios Cotsakis, has died. Jack begins to feel distracted by all the background noise in the supermarket. On the way home, he notices that some of the houses and roads in town are falling into disrepair, yet the supermarket continues to feel fresh and new. He drives Babette Gladney to her class, and they stop on the way to admire the sunset, which has become brilliant and beautiful ever since the airborne toxic event. People have begun to gather on the overpass since the sunsets began. Later that night, Jack frets over the fact that he is keeping his prognosis a secret from Babette.

Part 3, Chapter 23

Jack adds an extra half hour to each of his German lessons, feeling the urgency of his life now that he has a prognosis. Even though the airborne toxic event is over, the town is still patrolled by German shepherd dogs that can sniff out the chemical, accompanied by men in Mylex suits. The Gladneys become divided when they hear the news revealing that the chemicals are no longer present. Babette believes the danger is over. Heinrich, on the other hand, says, "the real issue is the kind of radiation that surrounds us every day. Your radio, your TV, your microwave oven, your power lines just outside the door, your radar speed trap on the highway." Jack argues that "terrifying data is now an industry in itself," with different firms competing to scare the public.

Part 3, Chapter 24

The next night, Jack discovers the Dylar medication hidden in the bathroom. He shows it to Denise, who advises they say nothing to Babette about it. She tells Jack that she already asked the pharmacists in town what it is for, but it is not a listed medication. Jack calls Babette's doctor and tells him the medication he prescribed her is causing her memory lapses. The doctor claims to have never heard of Dylar. Jack decides to take a tablet from the bottle and have it analyzed by somebody in the college chemistry department.

Jack is indignant when Heinrich informs him of his friend Orest Mercator's plan to sit in a cage full of poisonous snakes simply to have his name printed in the Guinness Book of Records. Heinrich explains Orest's training, such as waking slowly to avoid being bitten, and sitting in one spot for long periods of time. Jack is baffled as to why anyone would purposely place themselves in harm's way.


The family's division over their belief that the chemicals are gone shows how each family member responds to threat differently. Babette Gladney seems to want to believe the chemicals are gone, despite the fact that the workers must still wear Mylex suits and dogs still roam the streets looking for traces of the toxic event. Heinrich, on the other hand, thinks the workers and dogs know something the townspeople don't, and that is why they are still in the area. He believes different forms of radiation are the kinds of things "that'll get you sooner or later."

The mystery of the Dylar medication adds a new dimension to the plot now that the climactic airborne toxic event is over. For both Jack Gladney and the reader, there is a mystery to solve, which urges Jack forward in taking action and the reader in turning the pages. His scene with Denise also marks the first time in the story that he has kept a secret from Babette, and their relationship is usually hallmarked by openness and trust.

Orest Mercator's plan to surround himself with venomous snakes flies in the face of everything Jack tries to avoid in his own life, causing Jack to wonder, "who do these people think they are?" to risk death this way. Jack finds Orest's motivation an alien idea and impossible to understand, and so he is full of hostility toward Orest and what his plan represents.

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