Family Values in Don DeLillo's White Noise

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Family Values in Don DeLillo's White Noise

Patched together from different marriages, various mothers and fathers, the nuclear family in Don DeLillo's White Noise is nothing if not impacted and constructed by modernity. This explication of a typical American lifestyle does not examine the simplicity of daily life but rather the influence of outside sensory impact that impinges itself upon the nuclear family. The "noise" that surrounds and engulfs the modern family separates it from larger, universal issues that become muddled with the continuing barrage of information and confusion. Life and death become nothing but commodities, pieces of information, tossed into the slew of images, sounds and movements involved in modern living. TV, radio, food products, toxic waste?they enshroud the family, separating it from universal understanding to protect it, and, paradoxically, destroy it. For Jack and his wife, fear of death is all that remains of survival.

Modern life, the implications of technology, capitalism and progress, all separate the typical nuclear family from such philosophical, spiritual understandings as the meanings of life and death. The toxic cloud, spreading its poison over Iron City and vicinity, immediately affects the community and the nuclear family in such a way that technology overwhelms humanity. Heinrich realizes his fifteen minutes of fame in the Red Cross camp where he discusses the dire fate of Nyodene D. victims. His father asks, "Was he finding himself, learning how to determine his worth from the reactions of others? Was it possible that out of the turmoil and surge of this dreadful event he would learn to make his own way in the world?" (131). The cloud of noxious, dead...

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... be influenced daily by the influx of sound and image. The nuclear family is not disconnected from technology; nor is it always engulfed by it. The modern family constantly struggles to maintain the balance of both emotional understanding and commodity influence; DeLillo, thorough his explication of violence and fear may believe that modernity is winning the race for control of the nuclear family.

Works Cited and Consulted

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Viking, 1984.

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, Or The Cultural Logic Of Late Capitalism. London: Verso. 1991.

Said, Edward. 'Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies'. Modern Literary Theory: Reader. Eds. Philip Rice and Patricia Waugh. London: Edward Arnold. 248-258. 1992 (1983).

Sartre, Jean Paul. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel. E Barnes. New York: Philosophical Library. 1956.
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