Study Guide

Willie Mink in White Noise

By Don DeLillo

Willie Mink

Willie is a walking advertisement for why you shouldn't resort to drugs to solve your problems. Like Jack and Babette, Willie seems to have a brutal fear of death. He fears death so much that he's actually spent most of his adult life creating a pill that can make a person forget about death completely. But here's the problem: the drug makes you forget everything else, too. By the time Jack gets to him, Willie is throwing back handfuls of pills like candy, and he's a "weary pulse of a man, a common pusher now, spiky-haired, going mad in a dead motel" (39.31).

Mink's addiction to his own medicine is pretty much a symbol of what could have happened to Babette or Jack if they'd had total access to Mink's pills. Through Mink, DeLillo shows the extreme lengths a person is willing to go to for the sake of not facing that fact that they're going to die someday. If it's a choice between facing death and going brain-dead, Mink seems to choose the second option. That said, there are healthier ways for a person to accept that death is a part of life. In this sense, DeLillo probably uses Mink to criticize America's obsession with using anything (TV, shopping sprees, meaningless sex, pills, alcohol, food) to eradicate the fear of kicking the bucket.

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