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Perception of the World and False Images from White Noise

Don DeLillo's award-winning novel White Noise takes the idea of the supremacy of false images to the extreme. Through various scenarios, such as the airborne toxic event and the Dylar dilemma, DeLillo critiques contemporary society's over-dependence on false images. The characters in the novel that exemplify this over-dependence appear humorous on one hand, yet tragic on the other. The humor comes from the novel's characters behaving like cartoon characters who continually get hurt, but keep coming back for more. The novel's characters keep getting hurt by false images, yet continue to believe in them, causing the reader to smack his or her head in astonishment. This also makes the characters tragic, however, since the reader cannot help feeling pity for them in their inability to find the truth. The book introduces the reader immediately to false images through the main character, Jack Gladney. He suggests that "there was an honesty inherent in bulkiness if it is just the right amount (7). People trust a certain amount of bulk in others." He mistakes a person's bulky image for a sign of that person's honesty. I have to wonder what will happen to that image if a bulky person violates Jack's trust. Perhaps an indication can be found when Murray tells Jack that a colleague of Murray's, Cotsakis, was lost in the surf off Malibu (169). Cotsakis weighed three hundred pounds. While not an actual violation of trust, this event causes Jack to pause for a minute. Perhaps Cotsakis' death, despite his bulk, gives Jack the impression that bulk is not a proper image to maintain since it does not prevent death. While the false image of bulk is a good starting point for the book, the false images get into full swing with Jack's description of the his university attire. Jack, as a department head, must wear a black academic robe while at the college. He likes the idea, especially the flourish that results from him c...

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