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Overcoming Fear in White Noise

The Novel White Noise by Don DeLillo narrates the life Jack Gladney, and his obsessive fear of death after getting exposed to a toxic substance. In a conversation with Winnie Richards, a neuroscientist at the college where he teaches, Winnie tells him that he could overcome his fear if he confronted it and became less anxious of death. She says that “ If death can be seen as less strange and unreferenced, your sense of self in relation to death will diminish, and so will your fear” (229).

This view reflects the experiences of the characters in the novel, and their struggles to overcome certain fears in their lives. They attempts involve confronting the sources of their fear so as to demystify them- to understand them as ordinary circumstances that are part of one’s daily life. For instance, Winnie is scared by the red glowing of the setting sun, but she goes up to the hill to watch the sun set.

This action is seen as a desperate attempt to face the reality around them and in the process, get used to the source of their fear. He is even able to regard himself as a dead person, when he tells his wife that Willie Mink, will be “impressed by the fact that I’m scheduled to die…..He’ll want another crack at a live subject” (225). By making a joke about his situation, it is evident that death is slowly becoming less strange to him.

Later in the novel, Jack is given a gun by his father in-law, which reflects Winnie’s words: by being in possession of a deadly weapon, Jack is slowly coming into terms with the realties of life, namely, that death is real and inevitable. The gun is a symbol of death, and, therefore, it could be argued that Jack has not only able to confront the fear of death, but has acquired the power to kill as well. By possessing the gun, death is no longer a stranger to him, but a companion resting in his hand. This possibility becomes a fact when he shoots Willie Mink for having an affair with his wife Babette.


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