One of the principal philosophical conclusions of White Noise is that people act less than they are acted upon, as victims of forces beyond their control or knowing. Appropriately, Jack, the central character, does very little in the novel. His one dramatic action is to shoot Willie Mink, but this has no more practical effect on the direction of the novel than the tossing of a pebble has on the course of a river. Jack sees, listens, thinks, and comments, but there is little that he can do. Mostly, he thinks about death and chaos in reference to himself, his family, and ultimately American society.
Babette broadens and intensifies the emotional impact of themes that Jack, early in the novel, considers mostly in the abstract. When it is discovered that the apparently normal Babette has been taking drugs (at the expense of giving herself to the contemptible Willie Mink), for example, Jack realizes that her fears are symptomatic of life in modern America.
Similarly, their nine-year-old daughter Steffie’s precocious knowledge of pharmaceuticals and health matters indicates her to be a budding Babette. At some point in the future she will become obsessed with death, if she is not already.
Her half-brother Heinrich serves a similar, although more complex, function. Like Steffie, he is precociously aware of the intricacies of modern technological society, his field of expertise being science and the media. Whereas Steffie is...
(The entire section is 437 words.)