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White Noise

Don DeLillo

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full title ·  White Noise

author · Don DeLillo

type of work · Novel

genre · Postmodern novel; satirical fiction; dark comedy

language · English

time and place written · 1980s, United States

date of first publication · 1984

publisher · Viking Penguin

narrator · Jack Gladney narrates White Noise in a smart, ironic tone that alternates between dark humor and grand, emotional statements.

point of view · Jack Gladney narrates the entire novel from the first person. He tells the story solely through his own perspective so that even events that have been recounted to him are filtered through his distinctive tone. His perspective and analysis of events and other characters are clearly subjective and reflect his own thoughts and beliefs.

tone · Jack’s tone is both deeply ironic and full of emotion. Even moments of detachment and scathing wit are punctuated by sincere expressions of love and compassion for his family.

tense · Jack narrates almost exclusively in the past tense.

setting (time) · The narrative covers approximately one year, beginning with the arrival of new college students in the fall, and concluding with the end of the spring semester. The narrative takes place sometime late in the twentieth century, most likely around the 1980s, the decade in which the novel was written.

setting (place) · The narrative takes place in a fictional college town named Blacksmith. It is a quiet, isolated town whose nearest large metropolis is the fictional Iron City.

protagonist · Jack Gladney

major conflict · Jack Gladney’s internal struggle against his overwhelming fear of death

rising action · Jack’s discovery of his wife’s affair, which she conducted in exchange for a drug that cures the fear of death, leads Jack on a search to discover not only the drug but also the man responsible for providing it.

climax · Jack’s arrival at the cheap motel occupied by Willie Mink, the project manager behind Dylar, marks his complete surrender to his own murderous plan.

falling action · After Jack shoots Willie Mink and is shot in return, he recognizes the humanity in Mink and struggles to save his life.

themes · The fear of dying; the tension between reality and artifice; the role of technology

motifs · Plots; white noise; the question “who will die first?”

symbols · Sunsets; Hitler; the airborne toxic event

foreshadowing · Foreshadowing is an essential part of White Noise, from Jack’s statement that all plots tend toward death to his suggestion that toxins in the environment might be responsible for the beautiful sunsets and his son’s receding hairline.

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