Death is probably the most feared word in the English language. Its undesired uncertainty threatens society’s desire to believe that life never ends. Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise tells the bizarre story of how Jack Gladney and his family illustrate the postmodern ideas of religion, death, and popular culture. The theme of death’s influence over the character mentality, consumer lifestyle, and media manipulation is used often throughout DeLillo’s story.
Perhaps, the character most responsive to death is Jack Gladney. In fact, he is so consumed by his fear of death that his ordinary thought processes are often interrupted by the question: “Who will die first” (DeLillo 15)? In Jack’s mind: “This question comes up from time to time, like where are the car keys” (DeLillo 15). Jack finds the aura of death to be very noticeable and real, and he relies on his consumer lifestyle as an escape from his fear of death.
Jack uses the supermarket as his base for his consumer lifestyle and a place to escape, which is validated by the interpretation of his friend and colleague Murray Siskind. Murray views the supermarket as almost a holy place, an atmosphere with rays and “white noise” everywhere. It’s full of psychic data….Everything is concealed in symbolism, hidden by veils of mystery and layers of cultural material…The large doors
slide open, they close unbidden….All the letters and numbers are here, all the colors of
the spectrum, all the voices and sounds, all the code words and ceremonial phrases. It is just a question of deciphering, rearranging, peeling off the layers of unspeakability…. We don’t have to cling to life artificially, or to death for that matter. We simply walk toward the sliding doors. Waves and radiation. Look how well-lighted the place is. The place is sealed off, self-contained…. It is timeless…. Here we don’t die, we shop. But the difference is less marked than you think (DeLillo 37-38).
John N. Duvall, author of “The (Super)Marketplace of Images: Television as Unmediated Mediation in DeLillo’s White Noise,” believes that “Murray’s interpretations become Jack’s convictions; Murray’s speculations, Jack’s experiences” (143). Drawing on Murray’s speculation‘s, Jack embraces Murray’s analysis as a truth and uses the supermarket as security, a place where colors and names always in the same place, a place where he can escape death.
Jack also uses credit as a way to escape using a consumer‘s lifestyle. After one random instance of thinking about death, he says: “MasterCard, Visa, American Express” (DeLillo 100). Duvall notes that “forms of credit…are crucial to Jack’s function as a consumer,” and Jack stops thinking about death by thinking of it in terms of a credit card: a way to delay the payment process(136).
Furthermore, Jack uses his credit to create a sense of power over his fear of death. “I sent clerks into their fabric books and pattern books to search for elusive designs. I...