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White Noise

Don DeLillo

Chapters 26–28

Part III: Dylarama, Chapters 22–25

Chapters 26–28, page 2

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Summary: Chapter 26

One night in bed, Jack demands to know more about Dylar. Without telling him any details, Babette explains that she has a condition that she can’t get rid of. One day, while reading the National Enquirer to Mr. Treadwell, she saw an ad from a pharmaceutical company seeking volunteers for secret research. After undergoing a series of tests, the firm finally said the drug, Dylar, was too dangerous for human testing. Babette, however, made a private arrangement with the project manager—whom she refers to as “Mr. Gray”—and slept with him in order to obtain the drug. After breaking into tears, Babette finally says that she’s taking Dylar in order to suppress her unshakeable fear of death. Jack tries to convince her that perhaps she’s suffering from a fear of something else, but Babette insists that it is death she fears. They both admit that they are far more scared of dying than they have ever previously admitted to each other. They hold onto each other for a long time, not speaking.

Later, Babette explains how Dylar isolates the particular neurotransmitters that control the fear of death and how, despite having taken almost all her pills, she has yet to experience any relief from her fear. She tells Jack that Mr. Gray sent her a tape in the mail, saying that the drug might work better on a more suitable candidate. Jack finally tells Babette what the SIMUVAC man told him, that he is “tentatively scheduled to die.” He concludes that he’s no longer dealing with a vague and ambiguous terror, but a true, tangible fact. Babette beings sobbing and beating Jack, wordlessly. After she falls asleep, Jack washes his face in the bathroom and discovers that the bottle of Dylar hidden under the radiator cover is gone.

Summary: Chapter 27

Jack goes in for his second checkup since the toxic event. On his way to the supermarket, he passes a SIMUVAC disaster simulation. He sees Steffie lying in the street, playing the role of a victim. A man’s voice comes over a loudspeaker. He welcomes everyone on behalf of Advanced Disaster Management, a consulting firm that executes simulated evacuations. The man explains how the simulation will proceed, and Jack decides that he doesn’t want to watch.

On the front steps of their house, Jack meets Heinrich and Heinrich’s friend, Orest Mercator, both of whom are participating in the simulation. Jack asks Orest why he would want to risk his life sitting in a cage of deadly snakes for the sake of a Guinness record. Orest repeatedly declares that the snakes won’t bite—and that at least he’ll go quickly if they do.

Inside the house, Jack confronts Babette about the missing Dylar, which she swears she didn’t move. Jack then tries to find out where he can find Mr. Gray, but Babette explains that she promised to keep Mr. Gray’s identity a secret. Jack goes to pick up Denise from school, because he knows she must have taken the bottle of Dylar. Denise refuses to hand over the remaining pills, which Jack admits is probably for the best. He says, though, that he can’t help thinking about Dylar and wondering if it would counteract the Nyodene D. in his bloodstream.

Summary: Chapter 28

Steffie’s mother has invited her to Mexico City for Easter. Steffie says that she can’t go, since she has already volunteered for another simulation. Jack describes his two marriages to Steffie’s mother, Dana Breedlove, a secret agent who also reviewed fiction for the CIA—long novels with embedded codes. Jack notes that all of his previous wives had some connection to the intelligence community and were highly secretive. Jack claims that Babette represents the exact opposite of these women and, until Dylar, shared everything with him.

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