Mstu4016 f06 session11 wikiwork
As in the case of the useless smoke detector, the signifier and the signified have become separate entities for the characters in this world; sounds of words have become separated from their meaning and characters misunderstand, misinterpret, and focus on superficial description, taxonomy, and semiotics at the expense of substance.
For example, in discussing Nyodene D during their exodus in Chapter 21, the family’s discussion easily devolves into an argument about what constitutes “mammals” and “vermin.” Similarly, earlier in the same chapter, they engage in debate over the definition of a “plume” rather than engaging in the situation itself. In Chapter 25, Winnie Richards is so fascinated by Dylar’s properties as a “drug-delivery system” that she almost fails to realize that her investigation turned up practically no information about what the drug actually does. The words used themselves convey information without meaning.
Whereas the adults in the family are lost to endless plotting and obsessive thoughts of death and the preternaturally mature-sounding older children are fixated on gathering and interpreting information (and misinformation) and forging a fractured sense of identity. Wilder is a primitive, literally “wilder,” being whose very existence is a comfort to Jack and Babette. His consumerism is pure and basic, as he grasps at brightly colored packages in the grocery store, and his howling in Chapter 16 is a purely human noise expressing the pain of existence of which the others are only tangentially aware. Unlike Mercator and his snakes or Jack and his potential “nebulous mass,” Wilder also defies the fear of death in a straightforward, unselfconscious and concrete way in Chapter 40 that the others can only hope to emulate.
Treating himself as a lab rat, Mink (another form of vermin, really, though generally a more exalted one) has become addicted to Dylar, trading in his identity itself for peace of mind in the form of freedom from the fear of death. However, as awareness of our own mortality is the quintessential human trait, the price for achieving this “freedom” is the relinquishment of Mink’s own humanness.
As presented with the previous examples, the novel contains countless instances of this “aura creation”, both by the protagonist himself, and by the actors of American society. The relationship that these auras have with perceived reality is the crux of the novel’s message, and we can clarify it through considering what happens in the occasions where aura is absent.
DeLillo’s world is one devoid of screening devices and his characters have questionable filtering abilities. People appear not to have any agency as it applies to mass media. Images and sounds seep into their daily lives at an almost uncontrollable rate. However, the communication devices, the television, radio and computers are not represented as inherently destructive. It is just that the people who populate the landscape of the novel do not have or use the appropriate tools to decode and critically access their messages.
Moments of scientifically theoretical observation cloud Jack’s raw experience throughout Jack’s narration in the book. In fact, the book begins and ends with a descriptively philosophical observation of procession as cultural ritual. Jack’s descriptions as he watches college students moving into the dorms and the family representatives grocery shopping are like those of the narrator of a science/sociocultural-based documentary on the Discovery channel.
Ting-Fang (Annie) Cheng
As people seek for the advancement of technologies, and seek to control the world, they gradually lose control of themselves, and suffer the loss of meaningful lives. When people know more, they fear more—very fundamentally deep inwards.
White Noise has a very negative take on modern communication and technology advances. While Jack’s and Babette’s children make up the first generation to have access to such enormous amounts of constant information (granted, pre-Internet), not one of the characters in this book seems capable of genuinely effective communication and human interaction.
DeLillo uses Murray as a vehicle to say that television gives an insight into a world or place that the viewer is not physically present in, and that there is a choice of where the viewer wants to be. And, through the use of Jack, DeLillo seems to state that where the people choose to be is somewhere near death and violence.
Valerio Borgianelli Spina
Quantity of objects, signs, and media, that constitute the overwhelming milieu in which the characters of the story are entrapped, that is noise both genuine and metaphoric. It is not disappointing that the “Agora” of Blacksmith is the supermarket. This is the only place where Jack and Babette meet other people (except for some dinners with their friend Murray), this is the place where they exchange important opinions about life and death, and this is the first place in the city that was restored after the toxic cloud:
Heinrich embodies postmodern doom, hopelessness, and relativity. He positions this despair in a lack of human reflection on the modernity and its devices. DeLillo, in comparing Jack and Heinrich’s related struggles to negotiate contemporary technologies asks how we can, as a society, expect to reflect upon media influences on our lives when we don’t even really know how they work, when we struggle even to understand them in their most knowable manner: as tools, mediums.