Themes in White Noise by Don DeLillo

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White Noise “The world…is crowded, not necessarily with occupants and not at all with memorable experiences, but with happenings; it is a ceaseless flow of seductive trivialities which invoke neither reflection, nor choice but instant participation.” (Oakeshott) The idea of the lacking of realness is one of the major themes carried out throughout the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo, especially through the device of the television. “For most people there are only two places in the world. Where they live and their TV set. If a thing happens on television, we have every right to find it fascinating, whatever it is.” (DeLillo 66) The television in the novel White Noise is portrayed almost as a character and plays a significant role in the lives of the individuals in the story. The TV set is always on in the house and emits a constant flow of words, sounds, and images into the home. McCarthy depicts the TV set itself as “both a piece of furniture in a room and a window to an imaged elsewhere, both a commodity and a way of looking at commodities.” (1) In other words, not only is the television an American commodity, it also gives rise to hundreds upon thousands of other “must-haves”. There is hardly a home in America lacking at least one television set, giving this mode of communication enormous influence ability. “The world has but one language, soon learned: the language of appetite.” (Oakeshott 41) In order to feed this appetite Americans especially, glue their eyes to the TV to see what new ways of living and new products are out there to make their lives better. The character, Jack Gladney shows this modern-day way of thinking when he goes shopping at the mall. After looking at the “mass and variety” of hi... ... middle of paper ... ... nothing" since "there is no media in Iron City." (DeLillo 92) To the characters as well as to most of society, only the amount of coverage of the incident by the media brings the event into existence. It wouldn’t matter how many casualties how many lives ruined if the occurrences weren’t captured on film and plastered over every news station. “For most people, events are not ‘news’ unless they appear on television.” (Johnson 212) Once again this is seen when the refugees from the toxic cloud are upset that they only got fifty-two words on television, and not even on network news. “Are they telling us that it was insignificant…? Do they think this is just television? ... Don’t they know it’s real?” (DeLillo 162) Once again this concept that remains throughout the entire novel of distinguishing real from not real is brought up, and once again, is misunderstood.
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