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Identity Crisis in Don Delillo's White Noise Essay

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      Don Delillo's White Noise is a novel set in twentieth century Middle America.  The story follows the life and journey of Jack Gladney, a teacher of Hitler studies and his family through their lives invaded by white noise, the constant murmur of American consumerism.  The narrative follows these characters as they struggle to live life distracting themselves from their sense of reality.  White Noise explores a host of character's deep underlying fears and uncertainties that keep them from discovering and revealing their true identities.

 

      The first character I would like to discuss is the protagonist, Jack Gladney.  It seems as if Jack distracts himself from discovering his own identity, without it life is a mystery to him and it makes death even more mysterious.  As Jack talks to Murray about death, he states that

 

The deepest regret is death.  The only thing to face is death.  This is all I think about.  There's only one issue here, I want to live. (270)

 

Jack is obsessed with his fear of the unexpected.  He explains to Murry that death does not make his life more satisfying, but only filled with anxiety. Jack does not want to know any information predicting his own demise, he is afraid of finding out his own "code", as in the case of his medical report that forecasts his death.  There are many indications of Jack's identity crisis throughout the story-- a more prominent one is that of his identity as a teacher of Hitler studies.  It seems as if Jack is fascinated with a man so in touch with death, and when teaching he hides behind large dark glasses and...


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...sulting in death, Murry considers the idea that one can become an instrument of death, by taking death into one's own hands.  Murry may mask his character in a way to deflect death, but he is not afraid to take interest in the mystical concepts such as religion and science, the two sources that can cause and possibly cure death itself.

 

      Fear in a person's life can cause him or her to withdraw themself, or hide from certain situations thought to be associated with his or her underlying anxieties.  In White Noise, the fear of death is a prominent factor that provokes the identity crisis these characters face.  It is not until a person can face, and possibly overcome, these internal fears that one can obtain his or her true identity and understand truly who he or she really is.  

 


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