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Themes In White Noise By Don De Lillo

2334 words - 9 pages

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 his purchases he feels he has “achieved a sense of well-being, the security and contentment these products brought to some snug home in our hearts” (DeLillo 20). This theme of consumerism is one of the strongest driving forces in the novel, which explains why the role of the television is so important. “TV’s commercial emergence coincides with the ‘golden age’ of Fordism.” (McCarthy 2) The television thrives merely on the ratings that bring about an enlarged group of commercial viewers, and the more viewers, the more money is brought in through commercials and advertising. Although many people believe that they themselves are not influenced by advertising, no one can escape the brief moments of mind-numbing product awareness being drilled into their heads.

Even if these advertisements do not cause some people to immediately go out and by the products, “commercial images linger in their minds, leaving shadowforms that shape perception and experience.” (Yehnert 4) This idea is portrayed in White Noise when Jack and Murray go visit the Most Photographed Barn in America. (DeLillo 12-13) The image mediates everything, for the barn would be nothing special at all without the advertised title of “the most...

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