White Noise Part 3, Chapters 33 Summary

Don DeLillo

Part 3, Chapters 33 Summary

Gladney wakes unexpectedly to find Wilder silently staring at him. When the boy turns and leaves the room, Gladney follows him and discovers a white-haired man sitting in a wicker chair in the back yard. He wonders what he is seeing until he realizes Wilder is no longer standing next to him; he finds his son sleeping soundly in his own bed. The man is still outside, unmoving, and Gladney is certain Death has come for him in the form of this man.

He tries to do things to take his mind off his fear, but finally he decides the best way to keep death from entering his house is to go outside to meet him. Gladney looks in on his children before he goes outside, wondering if they will see his death as yet another divorce in their lives. Finally he goes to see Babette, kissing her on the forehead before leaving to meet his fate.

Clutching his tattered copy of Mein Kampf, Gladney goes outside. The man stands, and in a moment Gladney realizes the man is his father-in-law, Vernon Dickey. He is a haggard, worn man with a rasping cough; he drove fourteen hours to get here and did not want to wake the family with his unexpected arrival. He has always been an embarrassment to Babette because women are drawn to the sexuality he exudes and enjoys.

Babette appears in her sweat suit, ready to go run the stadium stairs; she is unpleasantly dumbstruck when she sees her father, but as the morning progresses she transforms into the daughter who used to do everything with her beloved father. Heinrich gives up his room, but Dickey does not seem to sleep. No matter how little the Gladneys sleep, it seems as if Dickey is determined to sleep even less. He is a ubiquitous presence in the house, and every movement he makes stirs a spectrum of emotions in Babette.

One night Gladney goes to turn off her television after Denise has fallen asleep and takes advantage of the opportunity to search for the Dylar bottle. She wakes and tells him she will not give him the Dylar unless he tells her what it is. Leaving out the most salacious and revelatory parts of the explanation, he tells her what he knows about the drug’s purpose and effects. Denise threw the pills away days ago, but Gladney still loves her.

Dickey takes Gladney to his beat-up car and makes him take the loaded gun he has hidden under the seat, assuming correctly that Gladney has no weapon to defend himself or his family. It is German-made, but Gladney still does not want to accept the weapon. Dickey tells him to be smart for once.

Babette weeps as her father prepares to leave. He tells her not to be concerned about his getting older; the only real danger to his life at this point is his rather unsafe car. Babette finds this absurdly humorous.