White Noise Part 3, Chapters 30 Summary

Don DeLillo

Part 3, Chapters 30 Summary

In the dark that night, Gladney cannot sleep because he is filled with panic, the “old defenseless feeling.” Gladney feels small and weak, alone and bound for death. He wakes up Babette (not an easy feat) and tells her he has to know the true identity of Mr. Gray, the man with whom she slept and did research. He is not angry and claims to have a sense of perspective about this, but he wants to try Dylar to see if it will relieve him of his horrific fears. Babette refuses to tell him, but he begs her to arrange a meeting so he can plead his case to the researcher. Still she refuses.

In his office that afternoon, he watches the science building until he sees Winnie Richards slinking her secretive way across campus; then he rushes off after her in a desperate attempt to catch her. He is winded but determined; he loses sight of her for a short time and then finds her again, running desperately after her before he loses her again. When he gets to the top of a hill, he is stunned to find that she is here to watch the glorious sunset, “going down like a ship in a burning sea.”

Richards sees Gladney and says she did not know he came here to watch the sunsets, too. He tells her he usually watches from the overpass. This particular sunset is not at as spectacular as one he saw last week; he hopes this is not a sign that the amazing spectacles are beginning to dissipate. They stand in silence for a few moments until Gladney tells Richards the pill he had her test is designed to produce “fear-of-death inhibitors.” It is a foreign thought to her, since everyone dies eventually.

Gladney wonders if she has heard rumors of any research groups studying the fear of death; she has not, but the desperation in his voice causes her to take her eyes off the sunset and look at him. Finally she says it seems to her that worrying about death is a mistake, since it is death which gives a “precious texture to life.” Without the knowledge of a final ending, nothing in this life would contain beauty or meaning.

She believes fear is positive because it causes one’s awareness to move to a heightened level. Gladney wonders if he is supposed to climb a ninety-story building or sit in a cage of poisonous snakes to help him control his fear; Richards says there is obviously no medicine which will eliminate the fear and strangeness of death, so he should forget about the Dylar.

Gladney knows she is right. He will still be sad and afraid, but Richards has added richness to his sorrow. He calls her a “true enemy,” as she never thinks about how her brilliance smashes other people’s lives. After a last look at the sunset, they walk down the hill together.