White Noise Questions and Answers
by Don DeLillo

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Does DeLillo's structure choices weaken the story White Noise? DeLillo suggests that the college, its faculty, its students, and its curriculum are currently all trivial. Also, DeLillo ignores aspects of college life that are commonly satirized in more conventional academic novels: sports, athletes and coaches, campus cops, dormitory life, parties, beauty queens, etc. Instead, he concentrates on the Gladney family. Academic life is secondary. Does this choice weaken the novel White Noise?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Don DeLillo's approach--whether convention or unconventional--can only weaken the novel if he fails in his objective. DeLillo's objective is two fold. First, his objective is to point out that in a world where trivial matters demand--and receive--equal time and attention with significant matters, then all things are devalued and all things are reinforced in meaninglessness--nothing remains that is preeminently meaningful. Second, it is to thematically illustrate the consequence of reducing all things to the common denominator of the trivial and meaninglessness, which is that communication amidst the white noise of the claims of the continuously demanding reams of trivia and trivialized matters of importance cannot be successful even between those who have vested interested in making it successful, families and students and professors. The grocery store line of serious news (extraterrestrials; celebrity births, weddings, breakups, etc.) drowns out the categorically important news like that of a cloud of pollutant gas and an evacuation plan.

Had DeLillo taken any other approach, his major thematic objective, that of the failure of communication of the important in a world where white noise clatters because the important is trivialized by the upsurging of the trivial, may easily have been subsumed under the louder white noise of conventional academic themes (e.g., success, failure, moral integrity) and conventional peripheral academic themes (e.g., parties, beauty queens, sports, dormitory scandals, athletes). Since DeLillo structured White Noise in a way that best meets his objectives, his disregard of conventional peripheral academic themes does not weaken White Noise.

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