Study Guide

White Noise Identity

By Don DeLillo


In a modern culture where people can't trust if the stuff around them is real, how can they trust that the stuff insidethem is real? Jack has spent almost all of his adult life building himself up in the eyes of his professional community. But deep down, he feels like a total phony. This might make us wonder if a human being can really know himself in the modern world.

If we spend most of our lives trying to create a certain image of ourselves, maybe we eventually lose track of who we really are. Besides, with all the radio and TV telling us what to do every day, how can we even be sure that there's such a thing as our "real" selves? Perhaps a person's real self is whoever they're pretending to be… but maybe that's just what the media of White Noise is telling you to believe.

Questions About Identity

  1. Does White Noise make you question who you really are? Can any of us ever truly know who we are? Why or why not?
  2. How does being exposed to things like TV, radio, and the internet influence the way we see ourselves? Are we different people when we're texting, compared to when we talk to someone face to face?
  3. Does DeLillo ever give a satisfying answer to the question: "How do we learn to say goodbye to ourselves?" Why or why not? Why is it so difficult for people to imagine themselves as no longer existing?

Chew on This

<em>White Noise</em> shows that, in a world where you totally base your life on what we see on TV and computers, there's no such thing as the <em>real</em> you.

In <em>White Noise</em>, our sense of identity is something we have to constantly fight to protect. It's not just a matter of staying alive, but of constantly distinguishing ourselves from other people. 

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