Death can be taken as an advantage or disadvantage, a blessing or a curse. It is an advantage or blessing as one is aware of his approaching death and can prepare himself for it. It is a disadvantage or a curse as since one is aware of approaching death, he realizes that human existence is pointless, which makes him unhappy, anxious and anguished. Among other things, Don DeLillo seems completely preoccupied with death and the difficult task of living with the knowledge of death in his novel White Noise.
Rather than discuss the unavoidable mortality that connects all humankind with broad, generalized strokes, DeLillo is concerned with the particular late 20th century cultural and psychological mechanisms that attempt to define the unclear relationship between self and death. Perhaps, the character most responsive to death is Jack Gladney. Jack is so consumed by his fear of death that his ordinary thought processes are often interrupted by the question: “Who will die first” (DeLillo 15)? In Jack’s mind: “This question comes up from time to time, like where are the car keys” (DeLillo 15).
Jack finds the aura of death to be very noticeable and real, and he relies on his consumer lifestyle as an escape from his fear of death. DeLillo uses Hitler to as a major component of his theme, death. Hitler has lived on past his death through the media. He lives because the Holocaust is probably the most tragic event in the history of the earth. In the novel Jack is obsessed with Hitler’s ability to live forever, Hitler’s power, Hitler’s self confidence, and the aura that surrounded Hitler and still surrounds Hitler. Jack is the total opposite of Hitler in the novel.
He is terrified of death, has no power over anything in his life, and has zero self confidence. Jack has no way to capture these things, but through Hitler. Jack is a character with a major identity problem; Jack has no idea about who he is. No matter if a person is rich or poor, smart or foolish; he/she will sooner or later leave this world because of death. As no one can experience death until he/she dies, everyone fears it at some stage. For the most part, man fears death because he does not understand what death is, how it feels and if it is really the end of thought.
On top of that, death is a stage of life, it does not mean the end of life – there may be a place where everyone goes when they are dead just as people go from teenagers to adulthood. Simply denying this fact is not the right route to take. DeLillo, through this novel, is trying to send a message to his readers that facing death is the best solution to its fear. Death is something beyond our control and so it is not a thing that we should worry that much about. Taking medication, and of course, killing others will not prevent death.
Thinking and being afraid of death is an ordinary thing for a man to ponder about but too much can lead to more negatives than positives. Furthermore, taking a step to an unknown world can be extremely challenging for man. That is why they fear death so much. Fear of death does not prolong anyone’s life; in fact, it may shorten someone’s life. In the end, man must face death for all men are mortal. Babette, wife of Jack, is also a prime example of a person in life that suffers from her frequent fear of death.
Both Jack and Babette fear death very much but their denial of this is very visible in chapter 20 when they had a long discussion in their bed. Both of them had informed the other that if it is their choice that they want to die first as if they are not afraid of death at all. “[Babette] says she wants to die first because she would feel unbearably lonely and sad without [Jack], especially if the children were grown and living elsewhere” (pg. 100). Jack also tells her more or less the same thing and they would argue whose death leaves a bigger hole in the other’s life.
By saying this, both of them want hope that they will at least seem to have no fear of death and thus can try to believe in it and avoid the fear. Unfortunately, this has not worked at all. Both of them have never felt less frightened from death even when they pretend they didn’t. Babette says, “I do want to die first,…. But that doesn’t mean I’m not afraid. I’m terribly afraid. I’m afraid all the time” (pg. 198). Her fear of death is further demonstrated when Babette by chance discovers an article about fear of death and she decides to go to the firm. Jack’s reaction to Babette’s fear seems misplaced.
He is more upset that she could possibly be more afraid of death than him than he seemed to be about her sleeping with Mr. Gray. He goes on trying to tell Babette that maybe she isn’t sure that she is afraid of death, “death is so vague. ” He tries to tell her that it might be her weight or height that is her problem. He cannot accept that she is scared of death. Much of this could stem that he depends on Babette mostly for psychological support. The major theme of the novel is that death lurks everywhere, especially in the White Noise of the modern world, specifically in the waves and radiation with which we surround ourselves.
The airborne toxic event makes visible this submerged death, and also heightens Jack’s already dominating fear of death when it infects his bloodstream. DeLillo outlines several possible solutions to humanity’s natural fear of death: by embracing and confronting it, as Tibetans and other Eastern religions advise; by blocking fear through “mystical”; science, as Babette attempts through the drug Dylar; by using consumerism to deny it; and by ignoring it, although only Wilder seems able to do this, whereas in the hands of adults it becomes a weakened form of cruelty.
We try to face death through crowds, through safety in numbers, but we must ultimately face death alone. Even to the end of the novel not much about the role of death in the eyes of Jack and Babette changes. The book ends when Wilder is crossing the road on his tricycle and cars are honking and swerving to not to hit the little boy while he is in a state of oblivion, he doesn’t hear the cars, and he doesn’t hear the women yelling at him to stop that’s all just White Noise to him.
Suddenly he falls into a puddle off of his tricycle and begins to cry and he realizes that he brushed death for the first time. Throughout the story Wilder represented a kind of innocence not found in any character. He was the only one who was not concerned with death or dying, he didn’t even understand the concept of death. But soon his innocence fades away, and he becomes and starts thinking like everyone else surrounding him.