Study Guide

White Noise Genre

By Don DeLillo


Comedy (Postmodern)

White Noise is a pretty funny book. It's dry and observant but also full of straight-up weirdness. This blend of wit and WTF is summed up pretty well when Murray Siskind announces,

I'm here to avoid situations. Cities are full of situations, sexually cunning people. There are parts of my body I no longer encourage women to handle freely. (3.12)

 Yup, White Noise is a book with a weird sense of humor.

When Heinrich argues with Jack about whether it's raining, or when Murray tells Jack (his friend) that he's glad Jack's dying instead of him, you start to wonder if the book is being weird for the sake of being weird. The short answer is yes: White Noise is a zany comedy. Monty Python sketches are also pretty dang bizarre, after all.

But another reason the book is weird is because it wants to question all of the stuff we usually chalk up to common sense and don't really think deeply about. And it's these philosophical passages that highlight the other big genre that White Noise falls into: postmodernism.

When Heinrich tells his dad, "You see the sun moving across the sky. But is the sun moving across the sky or is the earth turning?" (6.32), the question is both funny and thoughtful. A big rule of thumb for postmodernism is to unsettle or destabilize the kinds of knowledge that we might tend to take as commonsense. It makes us wonder about how much our personal perspective shapes the way we look at the world. But the book doesn't have the attitude of "You're stupid for thinking this or that." It challenges us playfully, which makes the whole uncertainty thing a little easier to swallow

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