Wilder.

Almost everyone in White Noise speaks with the same diction regardless of age, or background – something that we’ve already discussed in class.  Their voices are indistinguishable from one another from word to word, but their thoughts give them away in the who’s who game.  Wilder is the only character who is not given direct dialogue.  He has the ablility of some amount of speech, and there was the seven hour scream, but by and large he is silent.  If the characters are a part of a larger commentary on the post-modern form and thoughts, then how does Wilder fit in?  We touched briefly on his character at the end of class on Thursday, but it reminded me of the questions I have about his character.

He’s treated delicately and with some degree of ambiguity.  Is Wilder mentally impaired, or disabled in some way?  The reader isn’t given the answer explicitly.  Jack says early on in the novel, “It occurred to me that he was too old and too big to be sitting in supermarket cars.  I also wondered why his vocabulary seemed to be stalled at twenty-five words” (36).  With this in mind, it can be inferred that something isn’t altogether right, but consider the source.  Jack is not a realiable narrator and he briefly glides over occurances, just giving scant information, and then quickly moving onto the next thought, next activity.  His narration lies in the shallows, and I think that lends some strength to the argument that the book is largely plotless.  But I digress.

Much like  the kitchen and the bedroom are power haunts for Jack and Babette, it seems that Wilder could be lumped into that idea.  He is in many ways a “source” for Jack and Babette.  In their dealing with their overwhelming fear of death, Wilder is their source of comfort:

I think it’s being with Wilder that picks me up.

I know what you mean.  I always feel good when I’m with Wilder (209).

There are repeated references to Babette being with Wilder as he becomes her source of comfort.  As he is probably dependent upon her, or because he is “selfish in a totally unbounded and natural way” (209), there is something about Wilder that his presence brings simplicity, or maybe a return to something more organic. (Hence the name Wilder.)  But he allows characters to share in his wonderment of the world around him (watching boiling water in a sauce pan) and serves as a counter within the  Gladney mish-mashed family.


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One thought on “Wilder.”


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    Professor Sample says:

    You offer a good gloss here on Wilder. On one hand, he seems ambiguous and indeterminate, somehow just beyond the edge of knowability, much like the other “white noise” that flits through the characters’ lives. On the other hand (and maybe because he is such a blank slate), he functions as you note as a power source for Jack and Babette.

    I often think of Wilder as a kind of talisman that the characters hope will protect them (and of course, there are dozens of other similar talismans throughout the novel). This is perhaps why his dangerous ride across the highway at the end of the novel is so unsettling, for here he finally exerts free will and demonstrates that he too is subject to the dangers of the world. (Except, he comes through unscathed, so what does that mean — he really is a talisman?)

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