chuka_lis (chuka_lis) wrote,


Throughout White Noise we see people using items that represent a reality, rather than accepting the reality itself. Here, we find it with Murray’s pipe. "You’re smoking a pipe," Jack says, to which Murray replies, "It looks good. I like it. It works." He is not smoking the pipe for pleasure, because he likes it, but rather because the pipe conveys an impression that he wants to make. As Jack said earlier in the book, "I am the false character that follows the name around." Later we see Murray tell Jack

"Your status as a doomed man lends your words a certain prestige and authority...what people look for in a dying friend is a stubborn kind of gravel-voiced nobility, a refusal to give in, with moments of indomitable humor. You’re growing in prestige even as we speak. You’re creating a hazy light about your own body. I have to like it."

Its as if Murray is telling Jack how he is supposed to act according to some sort of movie role. The noble dying man who the family gathers around. Visions of reality rather than true dying. Finally we have Murray discussing Jack’s fear of death. Jack asks "Why have I had this fear so long, so consistently?" and Murray answers "Its obvious. You don’t know how to repress. We’re all aware there’s no escape from death. How do we deal with this crushing knowledge? We repress, we disguise, we bury, we exclude." Although Murray is relating what people do, it is never suggested that these are good things. In fact, this repression and disguise so overcomes the characters in the novel that even their simplest actions, Murray and Jack giving class lectures, for example, become acted out scenarios. The whole novel becomes, in a way, people acting out life rather than living. Everything is done with an audience in mind, with a gauged effect.

DeLillo emphasizes his view that people have lost touch with the natural process of life by allowing his characters to have a view of death as unnatural. According to Murray,

"Fear is unnatural. Lightning and thunder are unnatural. Pain, death reality, these are all unnatural. We can’t bear these things as they are. We know too much. So we resort to repression, compromise and disguise. This is how we survive in the universe. This is the natural language of the species." (289)

Clearly, however, these things are all a fundamental part of the life we live. Humans posses a fear of death so that they can continue as a species. Fear of death allows us to continue living, to concentrate on life itself. Jack is so caught up in his own fear—"I’m technically dead"—that he fails to appreciate the life that he continues to live. In fact, he even believes that fear brings on death, that "if we could learn not to be afraid, we could live forever." From an evolutionary point of view, it is just the opposite. If we were not afraid, we would be dead. Clearly, then, DeLillo believes we should transcend this fear that we all have, realize it is what keeps us alive, and then concentrate on the life that his characters have forgotten about.
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