Don DeLillo's award-winning novel White Noise takes the idea of the supremacy of false images to the extreme. Through various scenarios, such as the airborne toxic event and the Dylar dilemma, DeLillo critiques contemporary society's over-dependence on false images. The characters in the novel that exemplify this over-dependence appear humorous on one hand, yet tragic on the other. The humor comes from the novel's characters behaving like cartoon characters who continually get hurt, but keep coming back for more. The novel's characters keep getting hurt by false images, yet continue to believe in them, causing the reader to smack his or her head in astonishment. This also makes the characters tragic, however, since the reader cannot help feeling pity for them in their inability to find the truth.
The book introduces the reader immediately to false images through the main character, Jack Gladney. He suggests that "there was an honesty inherent in bulkiness if it is just the right amount (7). People trust a certain amount of bulk in others." He mistakes a person's bulky image for a sign of that person's honesty. I have to wonder what will happen to that image if a bulky person violates Jack's trust. Perhaps an indication can be found when Murray tells Jack that a colleague of Murray's, Cotsakis, was lost in the surf off Malibu (169). Cotsakis weighed three hundred pounds. While not an actual violation of trust, this event causes Jack to pause for a minute. Perhaps Cotsakis' death, despite his bulk, gives Jack the impression that bulk is not a proper image to maintain since it does not prevent death.
While the false image of bulk is ...
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...The images of them point back to an original sunset. Still, though, I do not believe it will be enough to counteract the years of dependence on false images. DeLillo merely sets the problem on the table; he does not offer a solution. The airborne toxic event does not force people to see the problems associated with false images and instead strive for genuine images. The reader is meant to learn from the events of the novel what the characters could not realize - false images cause all sorts of problems for those who project them and for those who receive them. The characters, meanwhile, will continue to set up barriers between themselves and others and rely on the images fed to them by the media and other forms of technology. They will probably also turn the Nyodyne D sunsets into the most photographed sunsets in America, thus destroying yet another genuine image.
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