White Noise Part 3, Chapters 40 Summary

Don DeLillo

Part 3, Chapters 40 Summary

Wilder gets on his tricycle and rides around the block until he reaches the dead-end street, where he walks his tricycle around the guard rail. His ride continues along a walkway which winds past several overgrown lots until it reaches a set of twenty concrete stairs. The rest of the astonishing account is told by two older women who were watching from the second-story back porch of one of the tall houses nestled in the trees.

They see the boy walk his tricycle carefully down the stairs until he reaches the bottom; there he remounts and rides across the street and onto the grassy area bordering the expressway. The concerned women begin to call Wilder, rather tentatively, until they see he plans to pedal diagonally down the slope and then cross the expressway. Now the women call frantically, but Wilder either ignores them or does not hear them next to the rushing traffic. All they can do is watch in alarm and wish the scene could somehow be rewound.

The drivers are confused by the presence of a little boy wheeling across the expressway on his tricycle and do their best to avoid hitting him. Wilder is unwavering in his desire to reach the median, ignoring the screeching tires and blaring horns as he walks his tricycle across the grass and prepares to cross the next three lanes of traffic. Cars dodge and swerve to miss the furiously pedaling boy, and Wilder reaches the other side.

For a moment he is fine but then appears to lose his balance and falls down the embankment. The ladies see him sitting, stunned, in the mud next to his overturned tricycle. Wilder begins to cry. A quick-thinking driver rescues the boy.

Gladney, Babette, and Wilder go often to the overpass to watch the sunset. It is a natural drama, and neither clouds nor rain deter the spectacular display. They are not alone. Occasionally a vehicle tries to cross the overpass, but the bridge is usually too full of people on folding chairs waiting for the show. Some time after the sun sets, people finally meander back to their cars, “restored to their separate and defensible selves.”

Men in Mylex are still in the area, searching for something. Gladney’s doctor wants to talk to him, to see how his “death is progressing,” but Gladney does not want to know. In fact, he is afraid of what the computer already knows about him and therefore accepts no calls.

The supermarket has been unexpectedly rearranged, causing “agitation and panic” among the shoppers. All the brightly packaged foods have been moved into what seem to be inexplicable places; only the generic foods, packaged in plain black and white, are in the same place. The tabloids contain everything one needs except food and love (cures for cancer, tales of extraterrestrials, solutions for obesity), and the grocery store is the place where everyone waits together to die.