Death as an Overarching Signifier in Don Delillo’s White Noise

Hassen Sakaama


Delillo’s continuous philosophical and intellectual brooding gravitates around the perplexing theme of death which seems to represent the binding thread that conjoins his numerous novels. Admittedly, many of his novels end with the death of one of his lead characters after having been assailed for a long time by both fears and dangers. Accordingly, death in Don Delillo’s fiction is not merely a theme he unwittingly approaches; it is, instead, a sensible quintessential representation of the spirit of the age in which he writes and an aesthetic reflection on what it means to exist in America in the second half of the previous century. Although death is essentially an intimate matter that is interwoven into the texture of our private everyday lives and a personal experience we go through unaccompanied, Delillo was able to transform it into an aesthetic concern by conjoining both its apocalyptic and its ordinary aspects (James 120). He diffused it in his fiction and reflected the ways in which it is interspersed in the fabric of contemporary American culture and consciousness.

The aim of this paper is to explore the theme of death in Don Delillo’s White Noise through the different ways the characters respond to their existential crises and fears in a society that is extensively dominated by technology, the media and consumption. This paper represents an endeavor to analyze the significance of this leitmotif and the meanings related to it by focusing especially on the major character Jack Gladney in his strenuous journey towards recognition and self-awareness.  


Humanities; Literature; American Fiction

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