Study Guide for White Noise

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Introduction

White Noise by Don Delillo is considered one of the most important American postmodern novels. By postmodern, critics and scholars mean that the novel treats our most basic understandings of what we consider to be reality, our basic fear of death, the split between high culture and popular culture, and the idea of the nuclear family. While the novel is comic in many ways, it is also a quite serious interrogation of contemporary American life.

While we may laugh at the absurdity of Jack Gladney’s ridiculous fixation on death we may also see his inability to really understand death as symptomatic of modern life in which no one really has contact with reality anymore. Our entire understanding of life and the world is rendered unreal by being little more than a televised simulation of life and the world. The noise of daily life becomes meaningless white noise. This is what Delillo “white noise” means in the novel. The fact that Delillo was able to deal serious themes while presenting them in ways that are both accessible and amusing makes the novel a real achievement. Scholars continue the study White Noise as an example of the postmodern novel.

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