Unlike other rites of passage that are optional such as marriage and initiation, death and birth are compulsory rites of passage which all human beings have to undergo. Death is seen as the end of physical life or completion of life at old age. Since time in memorial, human beings fear and hate death. Medical science delay death, the society ignores it, and the young disregard it. However, death still exists and rings in human forever. A second passed makes every human being to come closer to this feared but mandatory monster. Therefore, every human being is aware that one day death has to be the only option to a situation which will be unavoidable (Onkware 47). However, allowing the fear and thought of death dominate an individual’s mind is harmful as it hinders one from living life to the fullest as a result of fear of dying. In his well documented work, "White Noise" Don DeLillo demonstrates how technological advancements lead individuals closer to death. The modern novel represents death as a social fear that is brought closer by technological advancement. Human beings are aware of this death but fear acknowledging it as a result of fear. Therefore, death acts as a white noise that is present in life but is never heard. Characters in this novel accept the certainty of death and face it with courage. Advancement in technology has many advantages which make life enjoyable. On the other hand, the same technology causes danger to human life and lessens life span.
In the “White Noise” there is death all through. However, characters do not want to acknowledge its presence despite the fact that they understand its existence. Jack Gladney who is the founder of Hitler Studies surrounds himself with endless literature reading the life and death of Hitler "deeply into Hitler well into the night" (DeLillo, 2057). Jack was always eager to learn the life and death of Hitler. Once the chancellor at College-on-the Hill where he was a professor convinced him to change his name and grow out to be Hitler. Ironically, Jack does not like learning German since he is afraid of the deathlike power of German "sensed the deathly power of the language" (DeLillo, 2066). Jack’s occupation brings him to the topic of death constantly. This topic arouses several questions in his mind, but he is afraid to look for answers. Jack’s occupation as a professor is a result of advancement in technology. He is forced by circumstance and eager to advance in education to keep reading every now and then. As he continuous to read, death is the most interesting topic which he keeps on reading.
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Additionally, Babette reads people’s horoscope. He tries to avoid listening though he wants to listen and understand what is said, "Although I think I wanted to listen, I think I sought some clues" (DeLillo, 2058). Babette has a son who is coincidentally called Heinrich. In a conversation with Heinrich, Babette is brazed out by an idea of leaving a heritage as his son intended. Babette hides behind his Hitler studies which are internationally known with an attempt to provide himself with immortality. He leaves behind a legacy which will not be forgotten soon. Jack wonders whether it is he or the wife to die first since, "the question of dying becomes a wise reminder. It cures our innocence of the future" (DeLillio, 205). Jack references death as swine dive which is smooth, white-winged and graceful. He uses these thoughts to try to conceal his fear of dying.
Jack and other characters working around him portray the fear of death throughout the novel. Murray points out that, "The eventual heat-death of the universe that scientists love to talk about is already well underway and you can feel it happening all around you in any large or medium-sized city." (DeLillo, 205). This indicates that, scientists are aware of the dangers advancement in technology has to human beings. The entire universe is suffering as a result of advancement in technology. Thousands of lives were lost as a result of The Bhopal Gas Leak occurred in India in 1984. Additionally, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing was also as a result of advancement in technology. There is enough proof in the universe that the more human beings advance in technology; the higher the mortality rate increases (Magambo 29). There are countless accidents in every year which take away many lives. Murray’s phrase makes the universe appear almost feverish and claustrophobic as a result of advancement in technology. Murray’s statement makes Jack to change the topic immediately. This illustrates how Jack is uncomfortable with death. He is emotional and fears any elaboration of the topic. Murray appears to be the only character with clear understanding of death. He points out that he is leaning a new thing every day. "Death, disease, after-life and outer space is much clearer here. I can think and see" (DeLillo, 2069).
The media is another source of advancement in technology which makes human beings closer to death in their daily life. In the novel, “White Noise” Jack faces death topic from the media. The media keeps on reporting deaths, accidents, assassinations, murder and other death topics. This makes the society aware of the topic every now and then. Jack’s wife also kept talking about death despite the fact that she also feared it. Whenever she sees an advertisement such as drug advert which is capable of eliminating the fear, she jumps and takes it. Jack is stressed by his wife’s action because she can do anything possible to eliminate death fear. This illustrates how human beings abuse drugs and engage in other harmful activities to evade death. Unfortunately, these activities which are as a result of advancement in technology only worsen the situation. Instead of saving one from death, they take one closer to it. When Jack’s wife finds out that the test for the drug she had applied is cancelled, she sleeps with Dylar for medication. Her fear is worsened when she reads tabloid papers. This symbolizes death just as jack works with figures symbolizing death. DeLillo’s novel demonstrates that fear of death is at personal level but not social level. Jack has the idea of death however he is at home or in college. Murray puts a new idea in Jacks mind when he points out that "hypothetically killing someone" (Delillo 38).
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Jack faces death and still did not stop fearing it. He is exposed to a poisonous gas known as Nyodene D. exposure to this gas can cause death at any time. Jack is exposed to the gas fro two minutes which risks his life. This is a catastrophe for a man who fears death like Jack. Jack’s exposure to a dangerous gas shows how technological advancement brings human beings closer to death. Jack was in a vulnerable situation which could claim his life at any time. The doctors do not reduce his fear for death since they offer additional tests instead of straightforward answers. Technological machines are used to conduct these tests. Currently human beings are relying on technological machines to lengthen life. However, Jack is not looking for this longevity. Ironically, technological machines spew radiation to human beings and causes instant death (Onkware 98).
Babette uses the media to bring home the attention Jack pays to the media regarding the evident attention he has seen the media give. In theory, this may make Jack feel less eccentric about the dying process, yet he is still afraid, and possibly by going on chasing the medical practitioners for facts not opinions he responds to the information he has viewed from the media, eliminating the phobias through actions his only conversant way. The entire attention the media receives is demonstrated through the many small trivial ways " I heard the TV say: 'Let's sit half lotus and think about our spines'" (Delillo 18). It could almost be imagined that the referred to white noise could possibly be the television noise ever present in the backgrounds with its continued influence on the reactions and actions of the people around it. Acclimatizing them with the fact of life being continual, or viewing the death aspects, excluding it not until subsequent to the noxious incident of having effects in reducing the peculiarity death has to Jack. The book’s conclusion points out that life’s final stages, may lead to a partial change in approach to death. Impending the murder endeavor, Jack heard "a noise, faint, monotonous, white" (Delillo 306). This could be perceived as the white noise, always present, the voice of death that surrounds humans from which there is no escape. Jack gains more awareness of the presence of the noise of death as he comes closer to the murder attempt. Religion is also present as the book ends, where we meet Sister Hermann Marie a nun. She portrays cynical comfort that seems strange because when she talks of hell, heaven and angels she said "If we did not pretend to believe these things, the world would collapse" (Delillo 318).
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The terms of the prayers in German that Sister Hermann recites over Jack gives him comfort and relieve from the ideas of death (Delillo 320). As at this point we see a gradual acceptance as opposed to the initial fear. The acceptance is evident in Jack’s way of thinking but not in what he says"...he wouldn't die..., which gave him the edge on me" (Delillo 320). This sentence may not give satisfying evident in support of a change in Jacks perception of death but the subsequent page writes "There was nothing to do but wait for the next sunset, when the sky would ring like bronze" (Delillo 321). On this page he seems to now accept death as he is acquiescent to it. The acceptance of oneself to a predictable event can bring relief instead of the fear to the person. It can be argued, in accepting death, which it is now less weird as what is known to us is no longer strange. The interpretation of the terms that regards the sunset a metaphor of life and death as how a day departs are later affirmed "The sky takes on content, feeling, and exalted narrative life. ... Some people are scared by the sunsets, some determined to be elated, but most of us don't know how to feel, are ready to go either way" (Delillo 324). This may be regarded as how most people perceive death, some totally unafraid while others are possessed with fear. The end of life is similar for all humans, regardless of their perception. Jack’s resignation of death was the resignation in his mind. In encountering death by means of the lethal chemical he did not acknowledge the expected results of life, every time death occurs. In viewing death being an acceptable expectation Jack starts to enjoy the beauty of life. Attempting murder by means intoxication shows the contribution of technological advancements to bringing human beings closer to death. The chemicals that have technologically developed for other purposes in the life of humans can be used to terminate life.
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Technology’s pervasive presence proves both comforting and menacing, in thewhite noise. In the novel, contrary to the talk of human beings of Jack’s family, neighbors and friends, the modern technology portrays itself via machine humming and the steady flow of media images and sounds. Technology is now part of the natural environment and life as the same as humans. Actually, technology and humans seem inseparable as DeLillo’s story weaves seamlessly amid mechanical voices and humans. Technology gives uniformity and a sense of satisfaction as seen in the interaction between Jack and the ATM. Despite all this technology proves to be a threat to humans as in the case of the toxic airborne. In this technology brings humans closer to death than it benefits them (Onkware 54).
In conclusion, death is a mandatory rite for every human being. People try their best to avoid acknowledging death despite the fact that they know it is there. Human beings try their best to avoid death and dying. The fear of death resulted to the technological advancement. However, technological advancement does not only make life comfortable but also brings human kind closer to death. The novel White Noise" by Don DeLillo illustrates how technological advancements lead individuals closer to death. The media keeps on narrating deaths to Jack who naturally fear death. Jack is also exposed to dangerous gas which almost kills him. Jack’s wife uses drugs to eliminate the fear of death. These drugs are dangerous and can cause death. Babette goes to an extent of committing adultery to get medication. In the real world, human beings are daily exposed to death as a result of technological advancement. The technological errors which attributed to the Bhopal Gas disaster of December 1984 are identified. Plane crash, vehicle accidents and bomb blasts take many lives (Magambo 24). Additionally, technological machines aimed at increasing survival are not always safe since they release radiation that can cause instant death to human beings. For sure, technological advancements lead individuals closer to death.
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