Study Guide

White Noise Tough-o-Meter

By Don DeLillo


(6) Tree Line

White Noise is a book that tends to be taught more in universities than in high schools. One of the reasons is because the book pokes a lot of fun at university professors and faculties. Another reason is because this book throws out some fairly radical views of modern culture that might take a bit of secondary reading (or hey—a little Shmoop action) to understand.

That's not to say you can't read it on your own: you totally can. And it's totally enjoyable. It's just a heavily philosophical book. You're not given an action-packed plot rollercoaster in White Noise, no sirree Bob. You're given a weird, claustrophobic look at a relatively staid and conventional American household and the tremendous fear that lurks beneath everything.

What does this mean for the reading experience? Sloooooowness. In order to explore the demon of fear that inhabits every corner of the American existence, Don DeLillo examines, well, every corner. Imagine photographing every square inch of a room: that's what DeLillo does in the first third of this novel

Don DeLillo doesn't stop at one philosophical approach, though. He also checks out how media circa 1985 has warped our sense of reality. So now imagine going back through that room and photographing everything again, just from a different angle. Yup. You're getting an idea of the detail in the first third of the book.

But while the ideas in this book might be challenging, and the observations may be super-detailed, DeLillo does a pretty good job of keeping his observations within the realm of plain English. He also does a good job of grounding his radical ideas in the kinds of things we deal with everyday, like television, radio, or the grocery store. For this reason, White Noise is about as accessible a book as you're going to find, at least for a book that tries to talk about how consumer culture warps our experience of reality and death.

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