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American Cultural Studies in ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLilo


America is considered to be the most influential nation in the world. Its cultural and economic practices have been preferred by people of different cultures which has made it popular. The country has gone through different faces that have formed the basis on which its cultures have changed. Most influences of the world have been derived from the beliefs and traditions of the people. Culture in America has been defined given the different geographical locations of the land.

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America has also been host to almost all cultures of the world which has made such a merger realize a spectacular culture. The level of its influence differs from one region to the other according to the settlers of the place. Culture in America is defined based on the family unit and the economic activities that they adapt. It is hence the economic activities of the people that define the kind of culture that they adapt. In this writing, we look at the various developments that have taken place in American culture with special consideration of the novel ‘white noise’ by Don DeLillo. The author of the novel is an Italian immigrant who was more interested in literature and other practical activities.

White noise

White noise is a symbol that has been used in the novel to signify the hustles that people go through in life. They are accompanied by the actions that they take to bring a solution to the problem. As we read through the novel, we come to discover that despite the desire in everyone’s heart for a life that is stress-free, there are still situations that make life to be so uncomfortable. Overcoming a challenge does not mean the end of all challenges as expressed by the family of jack.

As they walk through life, they realize that it is composed of many hurdles that they have to keep crossing every day. This discomfort makes them consider death as the ultimate solution to any prevailing situation in their lives. There is nothing that seems to have meaning in their lives as the noises that surround them give them no definite answer to their questions. After all, has been said and done, there is finally a realization that life is not meant to be smooth sailing. Death is inevitable, but there is no telling of when it will knock at the door. Whether we look forward to it or not, it definitely will come. The couple learns lessons that make them appreciate life by accepting the challenges that come with it and also enjoy the joys that come with it.

The story has been narrated from the viewpoint of a man, Jack Gladney who has been in three marriages and is currently in the fourth one. He has four children and a wife he loves and who also loves him. The couple has death phobias and engages in different activities in their efforts to get rid of the fear. Babette who is Jack’s wife manages to hide her phobia but the husband remains open towards it. The lifestyle that has been adopted by Jack is a clear reflection of the American culture of relationships.

There is usually a lot of hurry and impatience when it comes to making such decisions among the young men of America. Most of them enter into relationships either in hurry and hence missing out on the point, or enter into them in the right way but not patient enough to sustain it. Jack in a summary of his previous relationships notes that they were women that were more inclined to the intelligence world (DeLilo, 15). There could also be other reasons that could be attached to the breakups basing on different scenarios. The relevance of white noise is expressed in this incidence where women have become too intelligent that they are unable to be effectively be handled by the men.

First and foremost, there is a certain kind of phobia that Jack expresses which is not considered common among the men. A man has always been considered to be a stronger counterpart that a woman should always run to for solace and comfort. Women will always be attracted to men that show vitality and courage to face the situations of life. It appears as if Jack has the physical features that can prove to a lady that he has all the potentials to make a perfect man (Maasik &.Solomon, 78).

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The man that is seen in the physical is however different from the real man. He has a clear understanding of his weaknesses and hence resorts to adapting a physically fit body to boost this weakness. It may have happened that the previous relationships failed because of his inability to display manhood. Women are looked at as very emotional individuals that will lean on a man for support. When there is a lack of such balance in the home, chances are that the relationship will not work. However much fearful a man may be, they are not meant to openly display their fears but suppress them for the sake of balancing the relationship.

Babette who loves her husband so much realizes that she and her husband are homogeneous when it comes to the fear of death. She notes how much it will affect the family if they both have to display the phobia. It is for this reason that she decides to suppress it and obtain medicine in her effort to obtain the private cure. To obtain the tablets, she had to engage in an illicit affair with Mr. Grey who mainly trades them for sex. Babette had purposed to keep it secret for the sake of bringing balance to the family as well as saving her marriage. The phobia towards death that has been expressed in the novel is white noise.

The family seems to be so much entangled in the idea of dying that they lose the meaning and purpose of life. The action that Babbette took is a reflection of some of the deals that women have to enter into for the sake of the family. A woman is considered to be a homemaker and hence a pillar on which marriage and family will be built. She realizes the danger that the phobia will have on the children and decides to seek external solutions. The secret would have never been revealed if the drug was not found. The drugs are discovered by her 11-year-old daughter who appears to be so concerned about her mother’s health.

White noise has been reflected in the American child’s rate of intelligence. The action that was taken by the eleven-year-old is an indication of how sensitive and sharp the American child is. At a young age, she appears to understand her mother more than anybody else in the family. She makes a discovery that had been kept secret for a long by her mother. American children have become so much exposed that they can comprehend most things that the parents may feel are above their age. This has posed a danger especially to the moral standing of the children. Most of them will observe what their parents are doing and attempt ort practice it.

The parents may be a little bit ignorant about it as they feel they are still too young and will not imagine engaging in some activities. Too much exposure to television and other media has given children avenues to access some information that is meant for adults. Denise must have noticed that the use of the drugs by her mother was responsible for her memory lapse. She takes action without seeking permission and throws the drugs away.

The rate at which children in America mature is no longer determined by their age but their exposure. Various psychological tests that have been carried out reveal that it is what the children are exposed to at a certain age that will determine their maturity. It is believed all over the world that the children in America mature faster than any other children in the world. Advances in technology are also increasing the rate at which such children comprehend things.

It is for this reason that parents are advised to be real with their children and give them the right advice. The lies that were told to children long ago can not work for the modern child. They can know when the truth is being told to them or lies. They will experiment virtually on everything that their parents tell them just to prove that it was right or wrong. It has hence become vital for them to be told the plain truth and thereafter directed on what is right for them.

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After the truth about the drugs is revealed, babes had no alternative but to reveal some of the secrets that she had been keeping from her husband. She reveals the fact that she has a death phobia and that she had to have sex with Mr. Grey for her to obtain the drugs that were still under test. On revealing this secret, Jack also reveals the fact that she had been exposed to Nyodene D. which gave rise to the death phobia that he has (DeLillo, 35). This is incidence tells more about secrets in families. Some secrets are maintained by people who are secretly struggling to suppress them. They do this because they are concerned about the relationships that they maintained.

They become worried that once the secret is revealed, they face a risk of losing their partners and spouses. It is however also realized that when one person is keeping a secret, there is a possibility that the other person is keeping other secrets. The medicine of knowing the other person’s secret is revealing yours. It must have been an emotional time when husband and wife poured out their hearts to each other. These are defining moments in the life of a family that strengthens their bond. They realize that they have been lying to each other when they should have confided and together sought a genuine solution.

Jack is surrounded by many people whom he seeks solutions and solace for his problems. One of the friends is his cultured colleague, Murray advises him that he can only overcome his fear of death by killing somebody. It happened as a coincidence that his father-in-law had secretly given him a handgun which he purposes to use for this purpose. The advice given to him is one of the myths that Americans use to counter certain situations. Myths are counter-cultural consolations and there is no clear certainty in them. The role of mythology is basically to create a certain attitude in a person’s mind which is a determinant of their actions.

Some of the actions that are adopted by people are basically because of their beliefs. It is the faith that one has in a thing that will determine its action. Murray strongly believed that if Jack killed a person then the fear would go away. Jack conformed to Murray’s advice when he had all the reasons to despise what he was told due to his desperate situation. What led to his subsequent action was because he already had the gun and that he was so desperate to overcome the fear. This shows the level of desperation that Jack was into. What motivated him into the action was also the fact that he came to know about the ware bouts of his seemingly great enemy.

White noise has also been reflected in the desire for jack to avenge his enemy. People find satisfaction when they can make their opponents pay for the pain they have caused them. The desperation to engage in evil actions is due to the yarning within an individual to get rid of certain circumstances. There seems to be no satisfaction within an individual until when their craving has been satisfied. Willie mink alias Mr. Grey had secretly sold untested drugs to his wife in exchange for sex. This was the grudge that jack had against Mr. Grey, it was hence an opportunity for Jack to not only revenge on his enemy but also to completely get rid of his fear.

The action however backfires when he realized that he was not able to kill his enemy (DeLillo, 55). He takes him to the hospital where they encounter Sister Herman Marie who administers the treatment. From the conversation that they engage in, the two come to realize that the nun is an atheist. She only prophase the title of a nun for the sake of others but she does not believe in the existence of heaven.

This is another exposure that has been made to religion and culture. The uncertainty that people have towards their beliefs is a white noise among the people of America. The realities of their beliefs are often challenged by the prevailing circumstances. Most of them discover that they are holding on to something that is unreliable but still do it for society’s sake. We discover that the heart of a person is different from what they display physically. It signifies how unreliable some of the religious leaders can be.

People may be engaging in certain practices not simply because they think they are right but because it is either beneficial to them or the others around them. Some of the ideologies that surround religion are usually found to be unrealistic by those who prophase them. They are however unable to back off from the same considering the effects that it will have on them and society.

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The attempt of jack to finish his biggest enemy and the humanity that finally ran into his mind gave him a sense of freedom. Of the four bullets that were in the gun, jack uses three to shoot the mink before he places the gun in the mink’s hand. Mink uses the gun and shoots jack and they are both lying down in pain. In the anguish, a lot runs into jack’s mind that makes him move with compassion towards wink. The thought of leaving wink to die despite him being his enemy disturbs him and purposes to take him to hospital. There is a sense of freedom and relief after jack saved the minks’ lives. The encounter with the nun to the hospital also acts as a beginning of the transformation to his life.

Unlike Jack, his son wilder is very courageous and dares to crisscross a traffic jam (Maasik & Solomon, 56). This is a death-threatening situation that leaves jack with a lot of amazement. His son dare to stare at death but overcome it, this gave jack complete freedom from the fear of death. He had many lessons to learn about life and death. He realizes that as much as one can not escape death, they don’t need to spend their entire life dreading it. There is much about life that needs to be appreciated and cherished. He realizes the beauty and mystery that life has brings its way as he watches the sunset.


The American culture is composed of different ideas that are brought about by the desire for an individual to find meaning in life. White noise is a reflection of the yearning within an individual to achieve a certain goal that is not forthcoming. This desire culminates in changes that are observed in the field of technology, medicine, and the adaptation of different beliefs. Some things happen which are beyond the human mind to comprehend. In such a solution to life’s mysteries and questions, many people resolve to religion, culture, and science. These are the three main areas that man turns to when encountered in a difficult situation.

The determining factor of whether any of this will work for an individual is the faith that they have attached to them. Doctors and scientists are so much attached to medicine that they believe it is the only thing that provides a solution to any problem. Religious people on the other hand believe that it is their faith in a spiritual being that will provide a solution to their life’s question. There is no perfection in either of the beliefs which have made people mix them up. People are out to try on anything that will grant them a solution; they will hence put more faith in that which gives them a more satisfactory solution. As advances are made in the field of technology, so is the cultural standing of the people changing. What has remained for man is to adapt to the changes and face life as it comes.

Works cited

Maasik, Sonia &. Solomon, Jack. Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005.

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Bt Bound, 1986.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 8). American Cultural Studies in ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLilo. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, December 8). American Cultural Studies in ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLilo.

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1. StudyCorgi. "American Cultural Studies in ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLilo." December 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "American Cultural Studies in ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLilo." December 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "American Cultural Studies in ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLilo." December 8, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'American Cultural Studies in ‘White Noise’ by Don DeLilo'. 8 December.

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