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Author Don DeLillo
Type of Work Novel
Genre Postmodern novel; satirical fiction; dark comedy
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,
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
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
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.