White Noise Part 1, Chapter 12 Summary

Don DeLillo

Part 1, Chapter 12 Summary

Gladney attends his German lessons twice a week, and Dunlop insists that they sit facing one another for the duration of the lesson. Gladney is supposed to listen to all of the sounds and view all of the contortions of tongue and mouth Dunlop undergoes as he speaks; when Gladney speaks, Dunlop peers into his pupil’s mouth as Gladney attempts to reproduce what he has heard.

The time before and after each lesson is filled with strained silence; the lesson itself is filled with Gladney’s unnatural articulation, which undoubtedly sounds like “a stone or tree struggling to speak.”

Dunlop has taught many other things, including Greek, Latin, and ocean sailing, but he is most passionate about teaching meteorology. When he was at a very low point in his life, he found comfort and purpose in a weather report; in the midst of his inconsolable life, Dunlop felt as though a message was being transmitted directly to him through television forecasts. Since then, Dunlop has studied everything he can find about weather and teaches meteorology classes to anyone who will attend.

When Gladney gets home, he is greeted by Denise’s father (Babette’s ex-husband, Bob Pardee), who wants to take the family to dinner. It is clear that Denise has no respect for her father, as she asks him about his latest job and discovers he is traveling the country trying to collect money for the Nuclear Accident Readiness Foundation, a “just in case” legal defense fund.

Pardee takes the three older children to the Wagon Wheel for dinner. Gladney takes Babette to the Treadwells’ home so she can do her volunteer reading to the old blind man who lives with his older sister.

Gladney and Wilder wait in the car, but Babette returns within five minutes after looking uncertainly around the house and porch. She is concerned because there is no sign of either Treadwell or his sister, although the house is open and there does not appear to be anything missing.

The adjacent houses are vacant and no one else has seen any activity at Treadwell’s house for the past several days, so the Gladneys report the mystery to a state trooper. She records everything they say and tells them a disappearance occurs in America every eleven seconds.

Gladney, Babette, and Wilder join Pardee and the three older children at Dinky Donut. Pardee is an old and dissipated man, and Babette looks at him with “tender sympathy” despite the terrible things that happened during their four-year marriage. “He drank, gambled, drove the car down embankments, got fired, quit, retired,” and regularly visited (in disguise) a prostitute. Gladney is not jealous, knowing it is only a passing kindness.

The next day the authorities begin dragging the river.