Study Guide

White Noise Tone

By Don DeLillo

Tone

Observant (And a Bit Neurotic)

Jack Gladney is a smart cat. Dude's a distinguished university professor who's taught thousands of students during his career. He even gets to wear a ceremonial robe to work, and likes

clearing my arm from the folds of the garment to look at my watch. The simple act of checking the time is transformed by this flourish. (3.1)

Jack also puts on dark glasses whenever he's on campus to create a sort of rock-star persona for himself as a leading expert in Hitler Studies.

But as you might imagine, Jack's a little bit insecure. When he thinks about going by the name J.A.K. Gladney because he thinks it sounds cool, he also realizes, "I am the false character that follows the name around" (4.23). Jack can put on all the fancy robes, glasses, and names he wants. He always feels like an impostor.

Really, it's pretty tough for a character not to be neurotic in the modern world of Don DeLillo, especially if you're as much of a brainiac as Jack is. His son Heinrich argues about whether or not it's raining. His wife is a pill-popping adulteress. His best buddy Murray tells him (in a pretty cold move) that he's sort of okay with the fact that Jack is dying. If you're the kind of person who has a keen observational sense, it's well-nigh impossible not to become as neurotic as a Woody Allen caricature.

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