White Noise Part 3, Chapters 26 Summary

Don DeLillo

Part 3, Chapters 26 Summary

That night Gladney quietly forces Babette to talk about the Dylar, explaining what he knows about the drug. Denise is worried too and will be much more confrontational than Gladney is. After five minutes of silence, Babette quietly asks to tell the story in her own way. Gladney says they have all night.

About a year and a half ago, Babette began to experience an unnamed condition and assumed it was a phase that would pass. Once she realized it was not going away on its own, she tried to break it down into manageable segments and attempted to cure those—all while trying to hide her research from the curious and persistent Denise. Her studying yielded nothing helpful and her condition did not improve; however, one day she was reading to Treadwell and saw an advertisement recruiting “volunteers for secret research” on her condition.

Babette was interviewed by a small firm doing psychobiology research. After exhaustive screening, she was one of three finalists selected to be a test subject for Dylar. She was informed of the risks and signed many releases, but in the end she was not allowed to take the drug. Instead she made a private arrangement with a man she calls Mr. Gray: she gave him her body and he gave her Dylar.

Gladney dispassionately asks for details, but Babette summarizes the months of meeting in a hotel room as a transaction in which she was “operating outside” herself to gain something she desperately needed. She refuses to tell her husband any more details about the rendezvous.

No animals have her condition, so it was imperative that Dylar be tested on a human. Babette breaks down and finally confesses her condition: she is obsessed with the fear of dying. Gladney tries to convince her that her fear is normal by telling her he has had the same fear for half his life. They share their almost-paralyzing fears, which are nearly identical. Dylar was supposed to send relief (tranquilizers) to the “fear-of-death part of the brain”; however, it does not work. She has taken 55 of the 60 pills Gray gave her, but she is more discouraged than ever.

Gray told Babette her memory lapses are a symptom of her fears, not the drug; even though she forgets many other things, she cannot forget her fear of death. He sent her an impersonal message on tape saying he was sorry but she was the wrong subject after all. “It was too random. He was too eager,” and she was a mistake.

It is the middle of the night and in the ensuing silence, Gladney matter-of-factly tells Babette about his exposure to Nyodene D. Their fears are now a reality. Babette silently sobs as she beats and shakes Gladney with great sorrow before falling into an exhausted sleep. Gladney is restless and goes to the bathroom to refresh himself; he discovers that the bottle of Dylar is gone.