Literature Study GuidesWhite NoisePart 3 Chapters 37 38 Summary

White Noise | Study Guide

Don DeLillo

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White Noise | Part 3, Chapters 37–38 : Dylarama | Summary

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Summary

Part 3, Chapter 37

Jack Gladney and Murray Siskind embark on a long walk, and Jack tells Murray something feels artificial about his own death. They debate the meaning of death and the regret that accompanies it, as well as whether they would want to know the exact date and time of their deaths. Murray encourages Jack to put his faith in technology, because if it got him here, it can get him out. Alternatively, Murray tells him he can put his faith in the belief in an afterlife, or cheat death by surviving an assassination attempt or a train wreck. He also accuses Jack of hiding behind Hitler's aura, concealing himself in Hitler's legacy in order to feel more significant. He claims humans use all kinds of repression in order to survive the horrors of the universe. They also discuss Jack's son Wilder; Murray says that Wilder is free from death because he doesn't know about it. Murray's last piece of advice is that there are two kinds of people in the world: killers and diers, and most fall into the latter category. He advises Jack to be the killer for a change and let someone else be the dier—in this way, his death can be replaced.

Part 3, Chapter 38

Heinrich informs Jack that Orest Mercator was officially barred from holding his snake test but went "underground" to do it instead. He ended up performing it in a hotel room and was bitten within a few minutes by a nonpoisonous snake. Jack begins carrying his gun with him to campus, and he wonders whether carrying it draws violence nearer to him. While walking, he hears someone following him, and he darts behind a tree, ready to draw his gun. The person following him turns out to be Winnie Richards, who informs him the Dylar research group definitely existed and was located in a nearby city, headed by a controversial figure, Willie Mink. Willie would meet with his subjects in motel rooms, and when the company found out, he was fired. Winnie also tells Jack that even after Willie was fired, he continued the experiment with one subject, a "female" who would arrive at the motel wearing a ski mask. Finally, Winnie tells Jack that Willie still lives at the motel over in Germantown. That evening, Babette Gladney and Jack argue over his need to use the car, and Jack ends up taking the neighbor's car without asking, heading toward Germantown.

Analysis

Many of the jigsaw pieces begin to fit together in these chapters—Jack Gladney feels a jealous rage toward Willie Mink; he takes the gun from Vernon Dickey; and Murray Siskind encourages him to be a killer rather than a dier. Winnie Richards, not knowing she is talking about Jack's wife, stokes his jealousy by relaying sordid details such as Babette's ski mask. Winnie gives Jack the information about Willie Mink's location, and Jack steals his neighbor's car. The plot has been set into motion, and some sort of action must result, because "all plots tend to move deathward." The showdown seems to offer relief for Jack's problem of feeling estranged from his own death; he says his death feels "shallow, unfulfilling." The planned drama holds the promise of meaning.

Murray's argument that "to plot is to live" is a direct counterpoint to Jack's early idea that "all plots tend to move deathward." Murray encourages Jack that "to plot is to affirm life, to seek shape and control," which is the very thing Jack has been looking for. Murray offers a different path forward, one in which Jack emerges triumphant over death. The concept seems absurd—Jack will still die eventually, no matter how many people he kills, so the "cheating" of death seems like a strange technicality.

Carrying his gun everywhere should make Jack feel safer, but, in fact, it puts him more on edge than ever, convincing him he is being followed. Somebody dying now feels like an inevitability rather than a theory.

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