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Free Study Guide for White Noise by Don Delillo-BookNotes Summary
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WHITE NOISE BY DON DELILLO - FREE PLOT SYNOPSIS

CHAPTER 19

Summary

Bee makes the family fell self-conscious. While Denise does it through nagging, Bee does it through silent vigilance. On Christmas Day, while the family is gathered, the TV is on.

On the way to the airport to drop off Bee, the radio is giving updated reports on the removal of a burning sofa from a tenement. On the way home, Jack stops at a cemetery and feels away from the noise. Yet he also feels like the dead are always watching him.

Notes

The TV is present at Christmas, a day dedicated to families; the TV is now an integral part of the American family.

The updates on the burning sofa are a mundane commentary on the degree to which we are caught up in other people’s misery. The only place Jack can get away from the "white noise" is the cemetery, but that means that the only escape is death. That fact that he feels watched suggests that once one removes all the "noise" of culture, one only has death; death is beneath the surface of culture.


CHAPTER 20

Summary

Mr. Treadwell’s wife Gladys dies of "lingering dread" from the time they were lost in the mall. Jack is reading the obituaries to see how much longer he has to live. He thinks about Attila the Hun, Sulieman the Magnificent, and Genghis Khan and how old they were when they died. Attila was only in his forties and Jack wants him to have been brave facing death. This thought is interrupted by an inserted line "MasterCard, Visa, American Express."

Murray comes over to talk to the kids and watch them as they watch TV; this is part of his investigation into the society of children. Jack takes Murray some coffee and sees Babette on TV. At first he thinks that she is missing or dead. Finally, he realizes that her class at the church is being televised on a local cable channel. The sound is off but it is the image that matters. "We were being shot through with Babette. Her image was projected on our bodies, swam in us and through us." Wilder is watching attentively, mouthing words to her and then he touches the screen. They try to turn up the sound but it is not working.

Notes

Jack reads the obituaries because he knows the statistically, more people will be older than he when they die; thus, he can feel secure knowing that, statistically, he has "x" number of years left to live.

The scene where everyone is watching Babette on TV is one of the most significant in the novel. At first, Jack thinks something bad has happened to her; in general, one only is televised because something significantly tragic has happened. Jack says that Babette is being projected onto them, through them. This description is physical; it assumes a tangible and invasive television wave. This also creates an ambiguity between the "image" and the "real."

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White Noise by Don Delillo-Free Chapter Summary Notes/Synopsis
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