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The Status in a Family and Society


Many people have described Delillo’s novel White Noise as one of the greatest novels on earth but to me, it’s fair to call it one of the relevant novels on the planet. The novel breaks down the ingredients of a family while depicting the distinct roles played by each component of a family. The vital task of media is information on the status of different individuals in a family. DeLillo scores his point by using Jack’s central character whereby all the events in the novel rotate around Jacks’ daily. The novel gives an insight into a family as per the American setting.

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Impact of media, knowledge and consumerism in society

Jack portrayed as embracing family life helps the reader of the novel to clearly understand the role of parents in a family. Through jack we learn the permissive nature of the American society in the sense that his children share different biological parents which is a normal thing in that society. The patriarchal nature of the society making men controllers of all events in the family is very clear. According to the novel, women are viewed as lesser than men and they are restricted to household daily chores only. Jack happens to be the main financial source of the family which he maintains through a job at College at Hill where he is the head of the department on Hitler studies.

The role of women in this society was well supplemented when DeLillo brings a female character in the novel. The life of Benette is confined in the limits of the house. She simply takes care of the children and performs other household chores. The social status of a woman in this society is lower than that of a man hence giving a man more privileges at the expense of a woman. According to Dellilo (p. 210) Jack after having a conflict with Benette states that he picked Denise from school for the first time. This consequently tells us that Jack rarely has time to know the growth of the children through interaction. His children spent much time with Benette hence they remain strangers to Jack.

It’s fair enough to state that there have been some slight changes in society according to the novel but still men are seen as superior to women. Surprisingly, both parents take a controlling role in the family and are mainly viewed as sources of knowledge to the children who in turn respect and handle them with much admiration. However, a grave fear grounded on knowledge and death is clearly seen whereby the parents live in fear whether the children have acquired enough knowledge to face life on them. Mistakenly the parents wish to die first. Bennett states that their long stay in this world is guaranteed by the children being around She tells Jack that it would be better for her to die first if all their children have grown and scattered (DeLillo, p.100). Benette is greatly afraid of loneliness and she deeply believes that children help her from such loneliness.

The quest for knowledge by the children is evident when Steffie says that water should be boiled since the radio announced that. Radio is mainly one of the sources of information (DeLillo, p.34). According to White noise children place much of their admiration on knowledgeable individuals but the admiration is more when that person is not their parent. In the novel we see children trying to imitate adults. For instance, the issue of coffee which is considered a drink for adults (DeLillo, p.102).

The novel shows how children think that to be an adult is to have knowledge hence they will try to behave through their conversations as if they are adults. They will try to make their parents believe they are adults after gathering some of the information from different sources. In many instances their sources are rumors. According to DeLillo (p.81)”family is the world’s cradle of misinformation”. The children will take information from their family mostly their parents and these are mainly family rumors. The static nature or the delay evident in changing society can be attributed to rumors based on different family backgrounds. DeLillo states that once the children learn to gather information from other sources the status of the society changes subsequently, the children desert their parents. Heinrich one of the child in Jacks family seems to have gained knowledge making him a tool of admiration among the girls. The effect of him having this information is that Jack starts fearing him.

Jack is seen in grave fear wondering whether the children will attack them. He wonders if they will attack them for the protective role which he foresees its downfall (DeLillo, 235). Jack suspects that the children will no longer respect them since according to him they no longer need his protection. This powerful control of children is short-lived but the sad part of it is that parents are reluctant in letting go. Information in DeLillo’s novel is presented as a powerful tool and he takes us to the sources of the said information. His analyses of information both by media and through rumors from families have received a conclusive treatment.

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The novel creates a scene of how knowledge is treated in society when Jack discovers that Henrich knows about radiation. This makes him panic and to him, respect would disappear the moment the children get information. Similarly, Benette is greatly afraid of death which creates an obsession state of the fear of death. To Benette knowledge would make the children scatter hence she is afraid of loneliness. This satire is presented on the first part of the novel named “waves and radiation”. This satire is basically the conflict between family rumors and the actual information and though indirectly and in hidden language his point is with no doubt shown. According to DeLillo (p.250) knowledge liberates and it dictates who to protect and who is to be protected. This is seen when jack learns the progress of Henrich in learning and explaining radiation. He says that the children will no longer need protection.


Parents have a key role to play in any family. The duty to bring up children should rest on both parents and the duty of taking care of children should not burden the woman. They should also appreciate the development of technology whereby children can no longer depend on rumors but will get first hand information. This novel depicts scenes and occurrences today’s society can not evade due to the advanced growth of technology which subsequently has led to changes in society.


DeLillo, Don. White noise. New York: NY, Penguin Books, 1999.

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