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American Culture and Code: Technology, Reinforcement, and Collective Perception in Don DeLillo’s White Noise

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  1. Introduction
  2. Television as a prescription for and distraction from death for the society
  3. Murray's dialogue and Jack's musings
  4. The fear of death syndrome
  5. The link in White Noise between the contemporary mass of television viewers
  6. Conclusion

DeLillo's White Noise is largely a critique of American culture after World War II and after the popularity of home television in the 1950s. In White Noise, white noise itself has covered up a gaping hole in American culture. The hole is the obtrusive, persistent, and arguably natural ?fear of death,? and leading up to the mid-'80s, DeLillo's post-War white noise has become a distraction from mass death for the mass of Americans.

[...] (292) This passage, like much of White Noise, as well as television and media in general, is highly coded. This passage is at once alluding to previous references of Nazi propaganda films, as well as potential nuclear war?to ?take aim the Soviet Union, for example. However, it is also eerily portraying a picture of contemporary America and the governmental role in media production. state funeral? is literal, as in the death of a state. If the reader accepts the narrative conceit that plots tend [...]


[...] In the following passage, DeLillo again draws a parallel between an American mindset and a Nazi mindset, with Murray as a consumer: feel I'm not only saving money but contributing to some kind of spiritual consensus. It's like World War III. Everything is white. They'll take our bright colors away and use them in the war effort' (18). DeLillo's criticism of contemporary, technology-consuming America is evident from this parallel with Nazi Germany. As a result of misleading mediums, both societies supposedly became collection of the like-minded and the spiritually akin, a people, a nation? Although the similarity between Nazi Germany and contemporary American culture may seem extreme, DeLillo's allusion simply effects an urgency to remedy the American perception. [...]

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