Study Guide

Wilder in White Noise

By Don DeLillo


Wilder doesn't have any lines in this book. But hey, Maggie Simpson never has any lines either, and she's a central character in The Simpsons. Wilder is three years old, but he hasn't quite gotten the hang of talking yet. Jack says he actually likes the fact that Wilder doesn't talk much. Wilder has a sort of childish innocence that both Jack and Babette envy. Both Jack and Babette are obsessed with the fact that they're going to die someday. But not Wilder. He's more than happy to take his plastic Big-Wheel tricycle and "pedal across the highway, mystically charged" (40.1). He has no clue how close he is to being annihilated by a car roaring along at 80 mph.

Wilder's lack of words, though, makes his parents paranoid even while it comforts them. One day, Wilder starts crying for no reason at all. The fact that no one can figure out the reason for his crying makes Babette totally paranoid and she assumes the worst. She takes Wilder to several doctors who all tell her the same thing: kids cry sometimes.

But Babette can't stop worrying until the crying stops. She's terrified of something happening to Wilder. DeLillo treats Wilder as a sort of blank canvas for Jack and Babette to project all of their adult fears onto. They love how naïve Wilder is to the truth of death and adult life, but they also worry themselves sick over his safety. In the end, DeLillo suggests that they should take a cue from Wilder's innocence and make peace with the fact that death happens to everyone eventually.

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