Essay #4: White Noise Analysis by Don DeLillo

This paper should be 5-6 pages long. Please type the essay in 12 point font, double spaced, with 1” margins all around. Include your name in the document and in your document title.

•Limit the scope of you paper. You need to make sure you have a thesis statement, which is a central argument in your introductory paragraph which you support throughout the essay, and which you revisit in your conclusion.

•Close analysis of specific passages from texts, quotes from White Noise, observations, personal experience, etc. are important. Use MLA format for documenting sources. Include a Works Cited page at the end of your essay, including the essay you analyze and any other sources you make use of (sources not required).

For all four choices below, I want you to demonstrate your familiarity with, understanding of, knowledge of, and detailed analysis of White Noise. Your essay #4 should not overlap too much with essay #3 (for instance, if you wrote about Gladwell in essay #3 and are writing about him again in essay #4, your new treatment of Gladwell should be rewritten, substantially different, and not just taken word for word from essay #3.)


Include a Works Cited and citations in MLA format.

No plagiarism. Please provide credit and quotations for any sources that you copy or draw from, including overviews of the novel and other student papers. If you are drawing from any outside sources, please also provide a copy of one page from each outside source (as a web link or pdf). I do not allow second chances for deliberate deception.

Choice 1: Waiting to be released from the barracks, Babette passes time reading to a group of blind senior citizens from an assortment of supermarket tabloids (142 – 147). When she gets to the “predictions” section and reads of the Pope’s assassination, the appearance of Bigfoot, UFO attack on Disney World and Cape Canaveral, etc., Jack observes that her audience showed no signs of disbelief; in fact they seemed to accept the predictions without hesitation. Jack remarks,

We’d become part of the public stuff of media disaster. The small audience of the             old and blind recognized the predictions of the psychics as events so near to         happening that they had to be shaped in advance to our needs and wishes. Out of         some persistent sense of large-scale ruin, we kept inventing hope. (146)

Given the emphasis throughout the novel on images—radio, TV, general media, consumerism and product logos, etc.—how does this passage/incident relate to “the most photographed barn in America ?” Considering the issues raised by this question, write an essay in which you compare and/or contrast the views of DeLillo and one of the other essays we have read. For example, “Big and Bad,” “What We Eat,” or “From Consumers to Commons” might tie in with the issues of marketing, consumerism, and appearance vs. reality in White Noise. “The Land Ethic” or “Designer Genes” might tie in with how we have manipulated nature and pharmaceuticals in White Noise. At least half of your essay should provide detailed analysis, including quotations and evidence, from White Noise.

Choice 2: In “The Land Ethic” (531-546), Aldo Leopold critiques a tradition of viewing humans in individualistic terms detached from their environment, a view of land as not having any ethical standing. How might Leopold’s exploration of ethics and the environment help us understand the implications of White Noise, such as the impact of consumerism, technology, the mass media, and complex industrial and economic systems on our ethics and relationship to the environment? At least half of your essay should provide detailed analysis, including quotations and evidence, from White Noise

Choice #3: Jack states, “All plots tend to lead deathward” (26). What is the role of plots, telling stories, and narrative itself in White Noise? That is, how are our lives shaped by the stories that we tell, and the stories that are told to us through education, the media, popular culture, and/or authorities? How is narrative changed due to the pervasiveness of mass media, consumer culture, and complex industrial and economic systems, which might often distance us from the realities of our lives, our happiness, and our survival? What are the implications for our ability to deal with important issues facing our society?

Malcolm Gladwell’s quote about risk and SUVs comes to mind:

We live in an age, after all, that is strangely fixated on the idea of helplessness: we’re fascinated by hurricanes and terrorist acts and epidemics like SARS—situations in which we feel powerless to affect our own destiny. In fact, risks posed to life and limb by forces outside our control are dwarfed by the factors we can control. . . . In the age of the SUV, this is what people worry about when they worry about safety—not risks, however commonplace, involving their own behavior but risks, however rare, involving some unexpected event. The Explorer was big and imposing. It was high above the ground.


Tie in DeLillo’s novel with one of the essays that explores true and false stories, such as “The Story of My Body” (323), “Theme for English B” (42), “Big and Bad” (440), “How Do You Think It Makes Your Mother Feel?” (378-390), or “Looking at Women” (294-305). At least half of your essay should provide detailed analysis, including quotations and evidence, from White Noise.

Choice #4: Early in the semester, we examined the changing face of the family in “Stone Soup” (64-71). How is family portrayed in White Noise, and how does this show the concept of family changing and/or remaining the same in modern society? How does the changing family play a role in DeLillo’s larger message about how our society has changed, particularly with respect to increasingly complex technology, industrial systems, and economic factors, and the impact of ubiquitous information, media, and consumerism? Has the authority structure of the family changed, with children who are so worldly and knowledgeable? What is the status of “knowledge” in the family where everyone throws out random rumors they have heard (81)? Does the onslaught of information and the level of complexity end up “infantilizing” adults, in that we become used to being passive and lose our ability to make sense of the seeming chaos, and rely instead on the opinions of dubious “experts”? How do family members of different ages respond to the advanced information society, which is our own? At least half of your essay should provide detailed analysis, including quotations and evidence, from White Noise.




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