The Failure of Technology in White Noise by Don Delillo Essay

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The Failure of Technology in White Noise by Don Delillo

One particularly unfortunate trait of modern society is our futile attempt to use technology to immunize ourselves against the fear of death. The failure of technology in this regard is the general subject of Don Delillo''s book White Noise. Throughout this novel, technology is depicted as the ominous messenger of our common fate, an increasing sense of dread over loss of control of our lives and the approach of inevitable death in spite of the empty promises of technology. In this essay I will examine Delillo''s portrayal of technology and its role in our society.

The title of Delillo''s book, White Noise, reminds one of an electronic static of the sort encountered on
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Jack Gladney is on his fifth marriage and his fourth wife, and his world is filled with the clutter of everyday life, with four children around the house and an uneasy sense of "normalcy". Delillo, however, exposes how absurd what we consider to be ''normal'' really is in our technology-dependent society and our compulsive desire to have machines save us from ourselves and reaffirm our personal identities:

In the morning I walked to the bank. I went to the automated teller machine to check my balance. I inserted my card, entered my secret code, tapped out my request. The figure on the screen roughly corresponded to my independent estimate, feebly arrived at after long searches through documents, tormented arithmetic. Waves of relief and gratitude flowed over me. The system had blessed my life. I felt its support and approval. The system hardware, the mainframe sitting in a locked room in some distant city. What a pleasing interaction. I sensed that something of deep personal value, but not money, not that at all, had been authenticated and confirmed (42).

One day an industrial accident occurs and a lethal black chemical cloud descends upon the town. Jack is forced to stop and fill up his tank as his family attempts to comply with the evacuation orders. In those few minutes he is exposed to the cloud and the looming black cloud as a metaphor of death takes on a new significance. Jack is told that in about thirty years the doctors will be able to

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