Failure

(If you haven’t finished the book, I’d skip my post for the time being.  I don’t want to ruin the end for you.)

If “all plots tend to move deathward” (26), but nobody dies, then is the plot complete?  I don’t believe the absoluteness of this statement, that all plots move in this direction, but the phrase and its failure to come to fruition in the novel called my attention to the multiple instances that failed in the novel.

There are parallels to be found in the attempt of Orest to set his record of time spend in a space with venemous snakes and with Gladney’s way of dealing with Willie Mink.  Gladney mentions his plan several times to “swivel my head to look into rooms, put him at his ease, wait for an unguarded moment, blast him in the gut three times for maximum efficiency of pain, take his Dylar, ger off at the river road, shut the garage door, walk home in the fair and the fog” (293).  But neither of these events is realized in quite the way they had envisioned.  Orest is forced underground, the humane society is against him and his attempt, four snakes are provided instead of twenty-seven and his is bitten within minutes.  So despite the exhaustive preparation, his moment of glory only results in him being a “jerk” as Heinrich put it.  Gladney’s revenge follows a similar pattern.  He doesn’t put in the effort Orest does, but his revenge, his quest for Dylar, encounters results that are much the same.   He doesn’t kill Willie Mink; he is himself shot and on top of it all, he discovers nuns don’t believe in heaven and angels either (not immediately relevant, but an interesting conversation).

The two events were both ways of challenging death, to stare it in the face (cliche, I know) or to absorb somehow the life of another by becoming a killer and not a “dier”.  So what’s the conclusion about death then?  If plots move deathward, but nobody dies and attempts to challenge death or gain life from death fail, then is it more about failure than death?  Because it isn’t just Orest and Gladney who are failures (their’s just concern death), but there are additional things in the story: Dylar did not work, the town did not evacuate due to a strange smell, despite the extensive practice drills, and the supermarket fails to provide the comfort after re-arranging its shelves.  Do all these failures tie in with the critique of consumerism and mass culture perhaps?  I don’t know yet.

Week #2 – The reluctance of characters in White Noise to say what they really mean

DeLillo goes into detail to describe the conversations Jack Gladney has with family and friends.  The conversations that stick out to me most include the bedroom conversation between Babette and Jack in Chapter 7 in which they argue for almost two pages about who should be pleasing whom.  Jack says about the interaction, “I get the feeling a burden is being shifted back and forth.  The burden of being the one who is pleased” (28).  Both are reluctant to spell out what they want and instead act ridiculously polite.

Though the interaction was supposed to be arousing (it’s about sex), the conversation is not sexy at all.  I got the feeling that neither wanted to be pleased, and that perhaps neither wanted to do the pleasing.  Babette doesn’t necessarily enjoy reading “sexy stuff” to Jack, though she seems to do it regularly-just like she reads the supermarket tabloids to Old Man Treadwell even though she thinks the reading material is trashy.  Why does she do this?

Another conversation that stuck out to me was one that Jack and Babette had with Murray Siskind in Chapter 9.  Murray invites Jack and Babette to dinner, but is inordinately polite about it to the point that it sounds self-deprecating and silly.  He says:

I don’t want to feel like I’m holding you to something.  Don’t feel you’ve made an ironclad commitment.  You’ll show up or you won’t.  I have to eat anyway, so there’s no major catastrophe if something comes up and you have to cancel.  I just want you to know I’ll be there if you decide to drop by, with or without the kids.  We have till next May or June to do this thing so there’s no special mystique about a week from Saturday.  (40)

He seems desperate to make sure they know he isn’t trying to force them into “an ironclad commitment,” giving them several ways to back out of his invitation to dinner.  He never says, “I really want you to come to dinner.”

In both conversations, there’s a noticeable reluctance to state clearly what one wants, how one truly feels.  People in the novel seem to use others as a gauge for how they should feel.  I think that’s why the family watched Wilder “with something like awe” after his marathon crying session.  Jack describes Wilder as coming back from “a place where things are said,” emphasizing how people don’t really say what they mean (79).  Wilder’s crying was a true, intense expression of personal feeling, something that his family regards as a feat “of the most sublime and difficult dimensions” (79).

Wilder doesn’t seem like a “normal” child.  Jack mentions that he thinks Wilder is too big to sit in the supermarket shopping cart, yet it is his childlike behavior that endears him so much to Babette.  Does Wilder have a mental disorder?  It hasn’t been explicitly mentioned.

inquiry 1

the hardest part about the first paper was trying to find an argument to make. i could come up with arguments for each specific quote and tie one to another so that slowly the argument would change, but i found myself arguing different–though not conflicting–themes throughout the paper. another part i found difficult was deciding which passages would best support my point and which seemed like they would help but were really just ‘white noise.’ hahahahaha not funny. but really, there wasn’t conflicting information but an overwhelming amount of it.

the length of the paper surprised me. i felt like i was going to have touble even writing three pages but almost up to four pages there were still many passages i could have used to develope each theme further and even argue new ones. i was alsosurprised how the same information–such as the white packaging or the supermarket being sealed–could be used to argue different ideas and the layers that could e found within the text.

Comments on Inquiry 1

The most difficult aspect of doing the inquiry was deciding what details to focus on to support my main points. There was so much richness to the text; everything had the potential to have “meaning” and to suggest multiple themes. So I guess narrowing things down to categories of detail (I chose objects, events and dialogue) was one challenge; the next was deciding what details to select within those categories.

The most suprising aspect of this exercise is that the closer I read, the more interconnected I felt the text was within the scene that I chose (supermarket). The events, the objects, the dialogue were, in my mind, more deliberately and carefully chosen by DeLillo than I had at first thought; in other words, there as a “method” to his randomness.–Trish