Study Guide

Denise in White Noise

By Don DeLillo


Jack Gladney puts it best: Denise is "a hard nosed kid [who leads] a more or less daily protest against those of her mother's habits that struck her as wasteful or dangerous" (2.29). Being a kid, Denise is really skilled at using all the information that modern media has brought to her fingertips. She almost never misses something that the radio or TV has told her, and she spends a lot of her free time reading information-packed books like The Physician's Desk Reference. For this reason, she tends to act as a parent to her mother Babette. Like a cranky mother, she criticizes Babette for being buying healthy food and never eating it: "[S]he throws it away before she eats it because it goes bad […] so then she starts the whole thing all over again" (2.25).

Throughout White Noise, it seems like the modern world of new media and consumer culture has turned American culture upside-down: children boss around their parents, what's fake gets counted as real, up is down…you get the picture. Denise's relationship to Babette is one of the main ways DeLillo shows that increased access to information is making kids grow up more quickly than they used to. "Mother knows best" isn't the law of the land anymore, and all those traditional types of power relations (like parent over child) are starting to come into question.

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