White noise is a natural sound that mimics a particular environment to sooth the nerves of adults or even distressed children. The white noise puts them to sleep mainly by drowning other sounds. White noise in the book can be viewed as the technology and the life of Americans, particularly as the noise which drowns what is really going on in the world. This can be seen where the students are carrying ungodly number of stuff including boxes of blankets, boots and shoes. Most of them are completely useless, illustrating the white noise ’’ Buy more things, buy more things’’ where they will never make use of most of those things again but still they buy them out of an ‘unknown’ need. This concept is also illustrated in Murray’s words describing the television offering “incredible amounts of psychic data” and “ancient memories of world birth”.
He finds himself asking his students “What more do you want?” as he views the Television holding large amount of data in bright packaging, life commercials and endless repetitions, which he views as constant and ongoing chants. In all these, he means that without knowing it, things like the TV and computers will eventually run and control people’s thoughts since just by a commercial, one can get a craving for some food or find oneself buying something that was not in the person’s needs. White Noise is a warning against the technology that runs people’s lives. If people allow the technology to be the ‘background noise’ in their lives, it will influence them without their knowledge. The white noise is viewed in Jack’s life where he tries to make everything significant, changing his title and adding initials to his name so that it can be significant.
As long as something ‘sounds’ as being of importance then it is important. “I’m not just a college professor. Am the head of department.” He is creating his own world where he thinks he is protected and all is well yet he goes home every day to a family of a ditzy third wife and step children. It all dawns to him that he might be in danger and the ‘white noise’ of his life fades away when he is exposed to a dangerous chemical, which he inhaled, threatening him to death. The white noise is illustrated by the different hums; Barbette hums, the traffic hums, the endless sounds at the supermarket and the commercials and shows that constantly interrupt the narrative. Jack views the world as being made up of this cacophony.
Jack and Barbette view death as just an awful flow of white noise. This white noise is filtered into this story and becomes part of it just as the way death becomes part of every conversation held by the characters in the book. These noises are not just the ‘background noise’ but are part of people’s lives. They are the very substances which make people’s days. They occupy their thoughts with the thought of death, all caused by their deep fear of dying. White noise is group identification in the narrative. Gladney points out to his class that “the crowds erotically charged, the masses he (Hitler) once called his only bride…” showing that the crowd formed Hitler’s shield.
Dellilo Don. (1985). White Noise. New York, NY: Viking Press.