Why did Winnie Richards,in White Noise, fear losing the fear of death?

2 Answers

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Winnie Richards, a minor character in Don DeLillo's novel White Noise, understands the importance of fearing, and respecting, death.

At one point in the novel, Jack states "No sense of the irony of human experience, that we are the highest form of life on earth, and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die."

The fear of death, or lack of the fear of death, is very evident in the novel. Babette even states, through Jack's narration, that she wishes to die before him because she could not live with the unbearable loneliness and sadness that would come upon his death.

That being said, Winnie seems to be a very different character than Jack and Babette. She, on the other hand, does fear death. She recognizes the fact that the fear of death is healthy. Her fear allows her to move forward, and move forward cautiously. If she failed to fear death, she would then look at death as an inevitability. For Winnie, the fear of death insures that she maintains her goals and examines the obstacles in her life in accordance.

For Winnie, the fear of the unknown is what keeps her moving and active. If she were to lose her fear of death, she would be no different from the animals which Jack describes in the novel.

jpope1's profile pic

Jessica Pope | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Winnie believes that fearing death gives us a sense of urgency. For Winnie, the fear of death is a driving force in life. It makes us take risks, challenge ourselves and stay true to our aspirations. Winnie thinks that much of what we do is a quest for immortality. A famous writer whose words are ready by millions of people long after his death is, in a sense, immortal. When parents have children a part of them lives on in the children, even after the parents have expired. What would happen if we no longer feared death? Winnie expresses concern that one who does not fear death will not live a fulfilling life. He or she will not truly appreciate life. The person won't try to accomplish anything great, and may not even be motivated enough to do basic things like work, nurture friendships and cultivate new skills.