White Noise: Third Part Analysis

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In the third section of White Noise by Don DeLillo, the protagonist, Jack, digs for information about his wife, Babette’s, secret medication, Dylar. As Babette reveals that “Mr. Gray let [her] use [Dylar]” after she “offered [her] body” a critical shift is seen in White Noise. In the above quotation, Babette introduces Mr. Gray, the owner of Gray Research, into the novel. She has an affair with Mr. Gray in an attempt to get Dylar, a fear reducing drug, to overcome her fear of death. Through the beginning of the novel, Jack seems to suppress rather than face his similar fear of death. Of course, his behaviour means his character cannot reach any closure with his fear. Due to Babette’s desperate need to get Dylar, her affair leads to a conflict for Jack. Jack’s conflict with Mr. Gray, due to his affair with his wife, allows for him to face his bigger conflict of death leading to the novel’s conclusion. My argument here is that DeLillo strategically uses the vulnerabilities of Babette to pull a key element, Dylar, into the novel to create a conclusion between Jack’s conflict with death.

DeLillo allows Babette to suffocate under her fears. Death seems to lurk in the waves of the world, consuming the minds of Babette and Jack. However, DeLillo decides to allow Jack to try and repel his fear while the weight of lurking death fractures the back of Babette. Similar to a typical protagonist, Jack attempts to overcome the conflict by forging a false JAK Gladney identity that he “[wears] like a borrowed suit” (16). Despite his hopes that this identity will make him larger than death he still believes he is the “false character that follows the name around” (17). Even though Jack isn’t always successful, DeLillo doesn’t even attempt to allow Babette to parry her fear. Rather DeLillo introduces a reversal of authority were Babette seeks comfort from her baby, Wilder. Her fear is so consuming that she hopes Wilder “stays the way he is forever” (236). At first read, this moment seems to demonstrate a mother’s love, but rather it shows the toxicity of her fear. She only wishes to halt the aging of Wilder to avoid him being consumed by the concept of death like she is. What I’m trying to say here is that DeLillo is deliberately setting up Babette as a weak character shown by her needing a baby to comfort her rather than the expected, a mother comforting her baby. DeLillo is showing Babette being crushed by her fear since he is strategically setting up the introduction of Dylar. This weak version of Babette leaves her open to be taken advantage of by lingering predators.

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Babette’s vulnerability lures two vital components into the novel: Dylar and Mr. Gray. After Babette’s mind can no longer handle the pressure of death pounding on it, she turns to an advertisement. After Babette reads an advertisement in the “National Examiner” she decides to enter as one of the “volunteers wanted for secret research” (192). After an interview with researchers, Babette begins to take Dylar, a drug meant to contract her fear. Despite the promise, the only effect of this drug is that “[Babette] can’t remember anything” (61). This memory diminishing drug, however, plays a grander role than just diminishing Babette’s memory. Dylar introduces a vital character to White Noise, Mr. Gray. Mr. Gray is the owner of Gray Research, the distributors of Dylar. He is drawn into the story after “[he] let [Babette] use the drug” in exchange for the “[offering of] her body” (194). Without the calculated writing of Babette’s character by DeLillo, Dylar would have never entered the novel. Dylar is the currency of Babette’s affair and seen by her as a saving grace that will rescue her. She is so desperate to rid her mind of her fear that cheating seems to be a plausible sacrifice to obtain Dylar. I’m not saying that DeLillo is trying to showcase the effects of Babette’s fear on her, rather he writes Babette to be crumbled by her fear for the sake of introducing Mr. Gray. Mr. Gray’s affair with Babette is the perfect bait to set up a conflict for his protagonist Jack.

Without Babette, Jack’s conflict with death would have no conclusion. White Noise revolves around Jack’s thanatophobia. However, it seems that Jack spins in circles with his fear, lacking a clear destination. Jack needs to confront his fear in order to reach his closure. However, DeLillo’s perfect setup of the affair, by using Babette’s vulnerability, leads to a conflict between Jack and Mr. Gray. After Jack discovers what Babette has been exchanging for Dylar, his masculinity drives him to confront Mr. Gray. Jack’s fight with Mr. Gray near the end of the novel may seem like a man fighting for the love of his wife. But rather DeLillo uses this fight to illustrate Jack’s fight with his fear. Jack visualizes Mr. Gray as a “hazy gray seducer” that “moved in ripples across the room” as Mr. Gray’s “wavy [body] passes through [Babette’s]” (241). This example is important because it depicts Mr. Gray as a figure that is unclear in Jack’s head, like his understanding of death. Indicating that Mr. Gray is meant to symbolize death. What I’m trying to say here is that DeLillo is deliberately using his setup of Babette’s desperation to introduce Mr. Gray. However, with Babette’s affair, that stems from her need for Dylar, a conflict between Jack and Mr. Gray arises allowing Jack’s storyline to have an outcome. In the end, Jack is seen peacefully waiting for death like “waiting for the next sunset” (321), unlike his typical anxious state. I’m not focusing here on how Jack’s fight leads to this development but rather that it’s DeLillo writing of Babette that gets him there. This conclusion with his fear is a direct result of DeLillo’s clever writing of Babette.

DeLillo intentionally prevents Babette from taking measures to overcome her fear to position her as a catalyst for the novel. Without Babette’s key role in White Noise, Jack would never come to peace with his fear as he does after his face-to-face with Mr. Gray. Furthermore, we can assume that DeLillo is using Babette’s role to highlight the importance of women in society. In White Noise, many readers consider Babette to be a background character like women seemed to be in the 20th century. However, without female figures in society, many key inventions and discoveries wouldn’t exist. Without Babette’s key role in White Noise, Jack’s resolution with his conflict wouldn’t exist.  


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