White as Death

July 16, 2019 by Essay Writer

White as Deathby, Aaron ChanDecember 10, 2004White as DeathDon DeLillo’s novel White Noise confronts the primal fear of death much in the way his own characters do– by nullifying or minimizing this otherwise terrifying human phenomenon. What is referred to as “white noise” in the novel is the barrage of modern life that blocks out most of what it takes to be human. The idea that a pill can remove such an instinctual emotion as the fear of death startles any reader. To remove this fear is to remove much of our own evolution. By not confronting the psychological necessity of fear of death, the characters are avoiding a large part of their own humanity. The author farther emphasizes such a loss of humanity by avoiding narration of first-hand death experiences. By trivializing the information surrounding death, DeLillo is able to make it distanced and less daunting. Here, dath is defanged even to the point of commercialization. DeLillo manages to commodify something as instinctual as the fear of death in order to criticize the direction in which the modern world is moving away from basic human instinct.The novel discusses death in terms of characters and plot by employing a variety of methods working on different levels of the psyche. Psychologically, discussing death as a contest as Jack and Babette do, takes away the edge from such an impending doom. If death becomes a contest, then triumph comes at the finishing line and not apprehension. In the same sense, writing as freely about death as DeLillo does, also removes the fear. As Winnie says, this fear is a necessity. People can only know life when faced with the alternative. If they live with no fear of death, they live with no motivation. The novel is also characterized by its avoidance of the subject of death as demonstrated in the various euphemisms for what is essentially a death cloud. Human nature thus creates a need to understand death to overcome it as represented by Denise’s Physician’s Desk Reference or to tame it as represented by Jack’s idea that good posture wards off mortality. Murray suggests strikingly that technology may hold the escape from death. Although technology is just a concealment of decaying bodies, it conversely prolongs life. In the modern world, death is just a change of the census; it has gradually lost some of its spiritual meaning as a result of being dissected and analyzed. As death has been something removed from common view, from the home to hospitals, people have become more and more estranged with fatality. Fear is a necessity, and as the SIMUVAC practice has removed this fear, people put themselves in danger by becoming too overconfident. Much of what it means to be human lies in dealing with the vast abyss that humans face each moment we grow closer and closer to eventual demise.Interestingly, in a novel with a central theme of coping with death, no death is actually directly witnessed. The incidences in which death is entirely possible do not directly address the victims’ last moments. The toxic spill, the asylum fire, and the plane crash landing are all events that could very possibly end in at least several deaths. Death mentioned is removed as though broadcasted through the nightly news. Each modern degree of removal puts us one step further from confronting a primal instinct. When Mr. Treadwell’s sister dies, it is marked by only a brief mention among a number of obituaries. For a novel that relates so much to death, it is strangely absent from the novel– especially at its end. Though the reader can almost predict a death to end the novel, even that is absent. Jack’s plot to actually kill Mink invokes some predictions about the eventual fatal outcome, yet even Jack’s murder attempt is unsuccessful despite his firm determination, another method for the author to avoid actually bringing death into action. DeLillo does not end the novel with anyone dying; it ends almost the same way it begins. In this sense, he implies that even killing is no escape from the modern world. He does not allow either the reader or the characters to experience death first-hand. Because of Winnie’s idea that the fear of death is what keeps humans motivated, Jack must remain perpetually in fear of death without encountering it directly. If he witnesses the harmlessness of death, the novel would lose its momentum as he regains his sense of identity without the cloud of catastrophe. By keeping death at arm’s length, DeLillo leaves it as a ghostly presence and not something wholly comprehendible. When the novel is not avoiding the issue of death, it nullifies it to the point of making it frivolous. Jack’s job trivializes Hitler, most commonly associated as a bringer of mass death. Despite his creation of an entire department devoted to Hitler studies and the worldwide movement of Hitler scholars, the book does not address Hitler’s most heinous crimes. In fact, DeLillo compares Hitler to Elvis. As Jack himself says, all plots move deathward; but if so, there is no way he can ignore such an event as the Holocaust. In fact, Jack reveals he is drawn to Hitler because Hitler is larger than life, larger than death. He continues to live on despite his death and it is this immortality that appeals to Jack. Additionally, the SIMUVAC disaster simulations also remove the danger of death. When the fake victims actually experience a real disaster, they are unfazed and unaffected. These simulations then become a type of Dylar, removing the fear from actual death and presenting it as a distanced event. By selling Dylar, Mink makes death a commodity, sellable and easily curable. Interestingly however, Dylar does not work; there is no easy escape from the fear of death. Similarly, the other professors from New York break down fatality into the mere quality of someone’s internist. And when Jack asks about the murderer who plays chess with Heinrich, he predictably asks about the nature of the sentence. However, his focus is on the trivial details of the shooting such as the murderer’s obsession with the weapon rather than the actual victims. Much like in his Hitler obsession, Jack does not confront the possibility of casualties, but only on the nature of celebrity. The superficiality of death remains critical as modernity has turned death into numbers.White Noise takes on death in very unconventional ways. Making it one of the central motifs draws attention to such a serious issue which has gone underappreciated in the modern era. Keeping death too far to realize its impact and yet not far enough to forget about makes it the most frightening. The novel asks whether or not people can see through the white noise that is today’s modern media and technology and have a glimpse of life’s unstoppable conclusion.

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