Study Guide

White Noise Mortality

By Don DeLillo


No getting around it. Death is everywhere in White Noise. You might not see it at first, except in the ramblings of Murray Siskind. But as the plot of White Noise unfolds, DeLillo strongly hints that everything in life might come down to our omnipresent—and very human—fear of death.

All the distractions we fill our lives with, all our attempts to look cool, all the colorful products we like to buy… they're all just a way to keep ourselves from remembering that we're all going to die someday. Not the cheeriest thing to write a novel about, but definitely the most universalthing to write about.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why does Murray tell Jack that he might get over his fear of death by killing someone? What's the logic there?
  2. According to this book, what's the connection between Jack's choice of profession (Professor of Hitler Studies) and his fear of death? Use specific examples from the text to support your argument.
  3. For Jack, what's so crushing about finding out that fear of death is behind Babette's pill-popping and her loss of memory? How has finding out about this fear changed his view of her?
  4. How do Heinrich and Orest Mercator look at death? How are their perspectives different from Jack's?

Chew on This

In the end, Murray Siskind says that pretty much everything humans do is designed to hide the fact that they're going to die someday. But it's clear from the text that DeLillo doesn't agree with him.

In White Noise, DeLillo sets Orest Mercator up as a hero because the young man has absolutely no fear of death. 

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