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Free Study Guide for White Noise by Don Delillo-BookNotes Summary
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WHITE NOISE BY DON DELILLO - LITERARY ANALYSIS

OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

The characters are all rather superficial and stereotypical. No one extends beyond his/her role. Delilloís characters do not achieve any kind of conscious enlightenment, but they do tend to progress slowly. Jack ultimately comes to see that focusing on death can itself be fatal. Babette moves towards a focus on Wilder. The rest do seem rather static.

Characters provide the opportunity for Delillo, like Thomas Pynchon, to create allusions and references that expand the potential significance of a character, often to the point of absurdity. Heinrich, as an allusion to Himmler, the director the SS, Hitlerís information gathering police, seems appropriate for one who always listens to the radio. But what about Dunlop?; what could Delillo be suggesting here? Or Eric Massingale: what does he have to do with a feminine hygeine product (Thomas Pynchon has a character named Stanley Koteks in The Crying of Lot 49). And what about Jackís wives: two have sensuous names, "Breedlove" and "Savory," but what does that mean for the other two, "Tweedy Browner" and "Dickey" (Babette). Naming is a game for Delillo that creates more puzzles. Like with Pynchon, one cannot make conclusions about names, merely possible readings of them.

PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The plot is insofar as Delillo needs events to occur so that he can have simulated events to supercede them. As far as the narrative is concerned, the plot is arbitrary. The characters interact with popular culture. What is relevant about the plot is that it occurs as a few well spaced dramatic and clichéd events. In this way, the plot reflects a television or film narrative that attempts to excite the viewer. However, Delillo is not so interested in the event as in the simulated and replicated event. Since there is no real epiphany in the novel--no one achieves an understanding of themselves or their surroundings-- the plot can only be a secondary or tertiary device.


THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The themes in this novel revolve around popular culture and death. Therefore, one must look at those two things as being interchangeable. This is not to say that they always are, but that they sometimes are. By seeing the grocery store as a place where death is hidden behind the bright packaging, the culture takes on a much more ominous tone.

Likewise, to see death as a media event, forces us to examine our own perceptions on the world around us. If we have created a society which is so intent on hiding or masking death, and at the same time broadcasts and replicates death ad infinitum, then what we have actually done is make death itself a simulation. We have made death into an event which accepted as not real; the one shortfall of this structure is that when one reaches that moment when death insists on being real (the time of death), then everything collapses and the veneer of culture is removed.

COMMENT ON THE STUDY OF LITERATURE

The study of literature is not like the study of math or science, or even history. While those disciplines are based largely upon fact, the study of literature is based upon interpretation and analysis. There are no clear-cut answers in literature, outside of the factual information about an author's life and the basic information about setting and characterization in a piece of literature. The rest is a highly subjective reading of what an author has written; each person brings a different set of values and a different background to the reading. As a result, no two people see the piece of literature in exactly the same light, and few critics agree on everything about a book or an author.

In this study guide, we have tried to give an objective literary analysis based upon the information actually found in the novel, book, or play. In the end, however, it is an individual interpretation, but one that we feel can be readily supported by the information that is presented in the guide. In your course of literature study, you or your professor/teacher may come up with a different interpretation of the mood or the theme or the conflict. Your interpretation, if it can be logically supported with information contained within the piece of literature, is just as correct as ours. So is the interpretation of your teacher or professor.

Literature is simply not a black or white situation; instead, there are many gray areas that are open to varying analyses. Your task is to come up with your own analysis that you can logically defend. Hopefully, these booknotes will help you to accomplish that goal.

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