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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 BOOK SUMMARY

CHAPTER 38

Summary

Jack and Babette are in bed and he tells her that Murray says that we need to repress our fears. He adds that Murray says that it is natural for humans to repress their nature. Babette says that "they" have always said to express one’s feelings. The next day he began carrying his gun to school. He asks Heinrich about Mercator, and Heinrich says that the humane society said it was not humane, so they had to go to another town and do it in a motel room. Also, they only had three snakes, one of which bit Mercator within four minutes. It turned out as well that the snakes were not even venomous, so he felt like a jerk and went into hiding.

Jack is wandering around the school when he begins to feel paranoid, like someone is chasing him. He draws his gun but puts it back when he discovers that it is Winnie. She tells him that she has discovered that Dylar was very nearly successfully created by a group in Iron City led by Willie Mink. Winnie tells him that Willie was under observation, but one person managed to keep sneaking in to meet with him at a motel. She tells him that the motel is located in Germantown, a deserted part of Iron City.

Jack takes the neighbors’ car; after the Airborne Toxic Event, they have left it in the driveway, pointing to the street, with the keys in it.

Notes

The argument that "it is natural for humans to repress their nature" is a paradox, but it is one that makes sense, sort of. It challenges the very idea of "nature" because if humans are part of nature, then would not either choice be "natural"? Babette makes the opposite argument: express one’s nature. They have shifted the topic from death to nature, effectively suppressing the fear.

The gun, which is supposed to counter the death fear, increases it. It appears that the harder one works to escape the fear of death, the more present it becomes.

CHAPTER 39

Summary

Jack has decided to kill Willie Minks for the Dylar. He plans to park nearby the Roadside Motel, walk up to Minks’ room, shoot him three times, write a cryptic suicide note on the mirror in lipstick, wipe off the gun and then place it in Minks’ hands, take all the Dylar, drive back and park the Stover's car in the Treadwell’s garage, and then walk home. He feels like his plan is flawless.


He enters Minks’ room and they begin a rather stilted conversation, but Minks knows that he has come for the Dylar. He tells Jack that Dylar has failed but will eventually be perfected; however, he adds that death will merely adapt and will be worse than before. Minks is gobbling down Dylar pills the entire time. Jack knows that one of the side effects of the drug is mistaking the word for reality; he uses this to confuse Minks and make the killing easier. Jack decides that it is time to kill Minks and goes over his plan again in his head; this time, however, he has changed some of the details, such as writing the suicide note in blood on the walls. Jack says, "Hail of bullets," and Minks falls to the ground, curls up, and cries. He shoots him twice, once in the stomach, and then once in the hip. Jack cleans off the gun and places it in Minks’ hands; Minks immediately shoots him in the wrist. Jack, surprised that he is still alive, wraps the wound and tries to suck out the blood. He then decides that he should try to help Minks. He drags him out of the motel by his leg. Minks cannot remember what happened so Jack tells him that he (Minks) shot himself and then shot Jack.

Jack drives them to a nearby hospital run by German nuns. He talks to the nun about heaven and angels and she thinks he is nuts for believing that anyone still believes that. She tells him that they do not believe in God or miracles, but non-believers want them to believe for their own personal well-being: "It is our task in the world to believe things no one else takes seriously. To abandon such beliefs completely, the human race would die. . . . If we did not pretend to believe these things, the world would collapse." She ends by telling him that death is the end, period.

Jack goes home and parks the car where it belongs, in the Stover's driveway. The interior is covered in blood. He walks into his house and lies down next to Babette.

Notes

The conflation of word and thing is the converse of a Wittgensteinian game: instead of reaching into a bag and pulling out the object to communicate, one speaks a word and, effectively, the action occurs. It is also similar to the idea of Genesis the God can speak and the word can become Flesh or solid. The fear of death has so reduced Minks that he cannot separate word from reality.

When Jack sucks the wound on his arm, he is taking what he has seen on TV and in the movies (the treatment for snakebite) and misapplies it, much like the family at the Airborne Toxic Event who wears life jackets: information is scattered when placed on the airwaves.

The German nun/nurse is created by Delillo to show the role of religion in a non-religious society: it is vital. The idea is that non-believers want others to believe so that when the non-believer reaches the point of death, there will be the opportunity for converting going to heaven. Even the idea of an afterlife is enough to satisfy most, even if they do not adhere to the belief systems; it is a sign that death can be defeated.

CHAPTER 40

Summary

Wilder gets on his tricycle and rides down to the highway where he proceeds to cross first one direction of traffic, and then the other. Women are screaming at him not to do it; cars are honking and swerving; and yet he seems oblivious to the entire event.

The men in Mylex suits still wander around the town. Dr. Chakravarty wants Jack to come back so that he can see how his death is progressing. The sunsets still attract countless viewers. One day, without any warning, the grocery store rearranges all of its shelves. The grocery store has installed computerized scanners.

Notes

The novel ends with Wilder missing and oblivious to the death and danger surrounding him. Everything around him is in chaos, but he is fine. By ending the novel with Wilder, Delillo seems to be subtly saying that maybe not thinking about death is the best way to death with it: live life without worrying about what is around you; if it hits you it hits you, but hiding will only set you up to be hit by something else.

We can tell that the town is still fixated on death through the doctor and the Mylex suit men; they are impotent to do anything about death; they are mostly observers. The installation of the computerized scanners at the grocery signals the incorporation of the supermarket into the larger techno-information culture. Now advertisers can more accurately target individuals’ buying patterns and package their products more carefully. The system is very 1984, but very personal at the same time. By knowing everything about you, the marketer can more carefully target you to buy the product.

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