Literature Study GuidesWhite NoisePart 3 Chapters 34 35 Summary

White Noise | Study Guide

Don DeLillo

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White Noise | Part 3, Chapters 34–35 : Dylarama | Summary



Part 3, Chapter 34

One night, Jack Gladney searches the trash compactor for the Dylar that Denise threw away 10 days prior, even though the garbage had likely been taken out since then. Jack marvels at their compressed trash, which looks like "an ironic modern sculpture," and he realizes that Denise, Babette, and Winnie were right: Dylar is like fool's gold. He goes in for another physical, and finds out his potassium levels are elevated, but the doctor can't tell him if it means anything significant. He tells Jack to get further tests at a new facility in a nearby town. When Jack returns home, he continues throwing things into the trash, feeling that all the unused and broken objects are linked to his mortality.

Part 3, Chapter 35

Jack takes Heinrich and Orest Mercator out to dinner. Jack asks Orest if he feels anxious about his impending project sitting with poisonous snakes, but Orest tells him he's looking forward to it. Jack asks him if he thinks about what it will be like to die, and if it scares him. Orest tells him he's not afraid to die if it means his name will be printed in the Guinness Book of Records. Jack attempts to dissuade Orest from his plan, citing the dangers, but he is unsuccessful.


The trash compactor is the end-station for many of the Gladneys' purchases: fruit rinds, packaging, and pill bottles. Jack Gladney's obsession with his family's trash, as well as getting rid of his possessions, represents two different attempts to come to grips with consumption. Just as Murray Siskind decodes the supermarket's psychic data, Jack scans the trash for clues, attempting to draw meaning from its mysterious objects. These attempts are unsuccessful, and he begins to realize how little he knows about his family's secrets. By getting rid of his personal possessions, he attempts to reconcile himself to his approaching death. However, the sense of closure he seeks eludes him. His approaching death is not advancing on a known schedule; he can't even be sure if he will die of Nyodene D. exposure or something else. Likewise, the mountain of possessions, and his relative indifference to any particular object, mean he can never get to the end of throwing stuff out. There are always more things, and none of them bring him a conclusive sense of farewell. Thus, throwing away is potentially as pointless a treadmill as purchasing.

Orest Mercator's ambition to be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records has a postmodern aspect to it. In postmodern culture, everything can be on the same level: high art next to low, authoritative information next to rumors. Likewise, in the Guinness Book of Records, everything is recorded without any order of priority, the heroic (highest mountain ascended) as well as the ridiculous (greatest number of plates kept spinning). Orest's goal also represents a confusion of means and end; a heroic deed should be an end in itself, but Orest's snake ordeal is just a means to his real goal—the trivial fame of the Guinness book. The same flatness of postmodern culture is demonstrated when Jack attempts to dissuade Orest, saying that people die from snake bites; this fact was on television last night, he tells Orest. "Everything was on television last night," replies Orest, an answer Jack admires. The vaster the media simulacrum, the less likely people can sift what is meaningful.

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