Study Guide

White Noise What's Up With the Ending?

By Don DeLillo

What's Up With the Ending?

A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead. (40.6)

The story pretty much ends where it began: at the supermarket. For Jack Gladney (and DeLillo), the supermarket is a place where you can see the modern-day rituals of adult life. Just check out the way everybody checks out at the grocery counter. They all stand in a "slowly moving line," glancing at the tabloids. Who of us hasn't peeked at these tabloids while waiting to pay for groceries? Who hasn't slipped a glance at the latest exploits of Bat Boy?

As Jack tells us, "everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks." What he's talking about are things people need to drown out the huge issues of life: petty distracting stuff like envy, gossip, material desires, and cheap thrills. These might not be the best parts of human nature, but without them, we'd have to constantly think about the fact that we're going to die. No one wants to do that, so the tabloids keep us grounded in dumb stuff that makes us momentarily happy.

In the final lines, Jack lists off what we're likely to find in the supermarket tabloids, like stories about aliens, miracle drugs, and celebrities either dying or rising from the dead. For DeLillo, this is the new religion of America: total consumerism. Now that he's shown us what's lurking beneath the rituals of this religion (our fear of death), he leaves us to venture out on our own and make informed decisions about the culture we're living in.

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