Human attitude to this life, this world, and its challenges may be criticized in a number of different ways, and, what is important, it is not actually easy to say that this attitude is correct and appropriate. Many people get used to take all things from this life for granted: they are able to hear, see, and feel just because they are human and have to have all these feelings; they can study, analyze, and earn money because it is an integral part of this life.
The only thing that people cannot accept and wait with impatience because it just should happen is death. However, in fact, the only thing all people really deserve after they are born is death. Of course, it may sound strange, provocative, and unfair but still death is the only “thing” that does not choose people in accordance with some criteria or skills.
The theme of death is evaluated in numerous literary and art works, and Don DeLillo’s White Noise is one of the brightest examples of how people are afraid of death, want to postpone it, and, in fact, can do nothing to avoid it. People are always eager to take as much as possible from this life without taking into consideration the necessity to be grateful for all this. However, they usually forget that nature has its own rules and demands, and people should consider its whims.
To comprehend better the idea offered by Don DeLillo, it is possible to make use of Aldo Leopold’s The Land Ethics and to comprehend that this story is about survival and respect to nature that provides people with a variety of opportunities to be used, about love that has to be demonstrated in some particular cases, about fear people should have but not be guided by, and about emotions that are inherent to humans and have to be used for good, for safe, and for happiness of our future generations.
White Noise as an Attempt to Fight Against the Fear of Death
This life is too complicated to comprehend its peculiarities, challenges, and aspects within a short period. Many people try to spend the vast majority of their lives in order to realize what the essence of life is and why there are so many contradictions in this life.
White Noise written by Don DeLillo is one of such possibilities to define the main aspects of life by means of evaluation of death as the major life counterpoise. At first, it is possible to see that the author wants to introduce one of the most important elements of human worth and salvation – to fight against the fear of death and to believe that “there is no death as we know it” (DeLillo 6).
However, DeLillo contradicts himself with time and represents a character who cannot imagine this life without this fear and comes to one concrete conclusion: “What if death is nothing but sound? Electrical noise. You hear it forever. Sound all around. How awful. Uniform, white” (DeLillo 196). Such attitude proves that people are lost by their nature; they cannot divide the world of madness, confusion, and consumerism from the reality they have the right to live.
In one of his interviews, DeLillo admits: “I didn’t have illusion and reality in mind… I’m interested in the way the play forms a kind of unending circular structure – it bends back on itself” (DeLillo and DePietro 23). However, it seems to be a bit difficult to comprehend a true meaning of white noise and its close connection to human life, to nature, and to the functions each part of this world has to perform.
This is why it is possible to make use of some additional material that aims at describing main aspects of life and the peculiarities inherent to it. The work by Aldo Leopold, The Land on Ethics is one of the powerful sources where the evaluation of people’s duties and lives is given from a number of educative perspectives.
The Land Ethic and Leopold’s Exploration of Ethics
The Land of Ethic is a unique opportunity to define the role of people in respect to nature and its rule. The author is not afraid to underline the supreme power of nature and its possibility to enslave people: he explains that “land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.
It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such” (Leopold 533). He underlines the importance of such ethic because its absence or, to be more exact, its lack has a number of negative outcomes. People have a kind of wrong attitude to land and its riches. First, it is necessary to admit that land resources are not eternal, and one day, all these sources may disappear.
And when people demonstrate their egocentric nature just in the way of how Jack Gladney did in White Noise, these people may be under a terrible threat to conquer the land and enjoy its resources. But still people are only the consumers who have to follow particular rules, orders, and complete necessary functions. Jack Gladney fails to complete his functions, as it has to be, this is why he become available for challenges, fears, and discontents of this life.
“As people jolted out of reality, we were released from the need to distinguish” (DeLillo 127). People become weak in order to distinguish their fears of dreams and reality, their duties and demands, their weak and strong sides. The main point that scares a lot is that people are blind to distinguish everything in the necessary way, and such work like White Noise is a kind of sarcastic way to explain people their mistakes and help to avoid them in future.
Things that Influence Ethic
Ethic in White Noise and ethic in The Land Ethic have a number of similarities: first, the idea of consumerism may be properly explained by means of Leopold’s philosophy, second, the technological progress makes endless duplication possible, third, the role of mass media is crucial indeed for humans and the ways of how people receive and understand information, and finally, the process of industrialization that increases the number of threats people are afraid of but still feel a burning necessity for.
In his work, DeLillo represents American consumerism as a utopia people create for themselves to be enslaved and to be imprisoned. Without even realizing the idea of being caught by personal fears, people deprive themselves of the opportunity for consolation and escape from this nightmare. People truly believe that the use of technology can help them change this life and immunize them against fears, sufferings, and death.
This is probably the most terrible failure because technology is regarded as human fate and a fear to lose the control over personal lives, words, and thoughts that are worsened by empty promises of technological progress. In addition to the technological influence, the impact of mass media has to be mentioned. “At breakfast, Babette read all our horoscopes aloud, using her storytelling voice” (DeLillo 16).
The attention to this fact helps to comprehend that the vast majority of people are under the influence of media and trust it completely to get some kind of assurance about the next several hours. However, at the same time, they blindly trust the idea of industrialization and the possibility to prolong their lives, avoid death, and be ready to numerous challenges around.
The result of this dream is dramatic: possible duplication of events, memories, and details promotes the idea to repeat everyone day by day so that people lose the idea of reality and cannot define where their life begins and industrialization stops. People overuse the possibilities offered by nature and create unbelievable harm to themselves without even knowing it. This fact is scary, terrible, but true.
In general, the idea to unite human life and technology is dangerous indeed: people are not always sure about the possibility to control the situation, and, what is worse, people are weak to recognize their disabilities and lack of knowledge. White Noise by Don DeLillo helps to realize that death is not the most terrible and unpredictable event to be afraid of, and The Land Ethic by Aldo Leopold proves that human disrespect to nature and its gifts may be more dangerous for people.
Due to their self-confidence and disabilities to define their own mistakes in time, people become the victims of their own achievements and creations. And sometimes it is better to think whether death is really so terrible or it is a gift given by nature to save people from themselves.
DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin Group, 1986.
DeLillo, Don and DePierto, Thomas. Conversations with Don DeLillo. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005. Print.
Leopard, Aldo. “The Land Ethic.” Open Questions: Readings for Critical Thinking and Writing. Ed. Chris Anderson and Lex Runciman. Boston: Bedford/St. Martain, 2005: 531-546. Print.