Literature Study GuidesWhite NoisePart 3 Chapters 25 26 Summary

White Noise | Study Guide

Don DeLillo

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White Noise | Part 3, Chapters 25–26 : Dylarama | Summary



Part 3, Chapter 25

Jack Gladney brings a Dylar tablet to Winnie Richards, a neurochemist at the college. She says she will test it, but Jack can't find her on campus for the rest of the week. He begins to notice Babette Gladney has become more contemplative and introspective, and asks her if anything is bothering her. He tells her he found the Dylar, but Babette tells him she doesn't know anything about it. Jack finally tracks Winnie down, but she tells him she isn't sure what the drug is meant for—it is likely a psychopharmaceutical meant to interact with the brain.

Part 3, Chapter 26

Jack confronts Babette again about the Dylar, and she finally acquiesces. She tells him she had begun to feel like her condition would never go away, a condition she describes as a kind of emotional pain—a fear of death. One day, she found a wanted ad seeking subjects for secret research in psychobiology. She was chosen to be a test subject for the experimental, top-secret drug named Dylar, but ultimately, the test was deemed too risky. However, she and the head of research, Mr. Gray, made a private arrangement to conduct their own experiments—which also included her having a physical relationship with Mr. Gray. Jack asks her the specifics of their relationship, and tries to reassure her that everyone is afraid of death. Babette tells him the research was able to isolate the fear-of-death part of the brain, and Dylar alleviates this fear. Yet the drug doesn't work for her, which is why she has been sad and distant lately. Jack then reveals to Babette his prognosis from the airborne toxic event. After she falls asleep, Jack looks for the bottle of Dylar in the bathroom where it was hidden, but it is gone.


Babette Gladney's revelation to Jack about taking the Dylar and having an affair is significant; now their relationship is revealed to be no less secretive than Jack Gladney's previous relationships. He, in turn, has his own secrets, having taken the Dylar tablet to be examined without telling Babette. This revelation brings up the question of how well Jack and Babette truly know each other, even though they think they know each other's deepest fears.

Dylar seems to be satire on Don DeLillo's part—no pill in existence can isolate and cure people's fear of death. Yet the decade in which White Noise was written saw the advent of new prescription medications people could take to treat depression and anxiety by altering their brain chemistry. Babette's description of the drug causes Jack to reflect that "We're the sum of our chemical impulses," something he finds "unbearable to think about." If we are only reacting to changes in brain chemistry, Jack reasons, perhaps we are not morally responsible for our actions. Curiously, death is a side effect of taking Dylar—the drug claiming to stop any fear of death altogether. But the drug doesn't work on Babette, and DeLillo here seems to be suggesting that fear of death may be a necessary thing, and therefore unavoidable.

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