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Satire in "White Noise, "

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Satire & Parody in DeLillo’s “White Noise”
English 170W - 06
2/26/2014
Yennifer Nunez |

Yennifer Nunez
February 26, 2014
Professor Jordan Lavender-Smith
English 170W - 06
Satire & Parody in DeLillo’s “White Noise”
Satire and parody are literary devices emitted to ridicule a specific topic, or issue within society, in a comical way. A satire is an approach exploited to criticize a subject, or topic, whereas a parody is a style of satire. Don DeLillo produced his famous novel “White Noise,” around these two literary elements. Throughout his novel "White Noise," Don DeLillo utilized satire and parody to mock human nature related to consumerism, and the societal influence it created.
In the scenes that reside at the supermarket, the satire of consumerism became much more relevant. The numerous encounters throughout “White Noise,” at the supermarket compel it to gain a heightened importance in the novel. Both the protagonist and one of the main characters, Murray, described the supermarket in an illuminating way. Murray described the supermarket to Babette by saying, “This place recharges us spiritually…Look how bright.” (DeLillo 37) Later on in the novel, after the toxic event, on one of his visits to the supermarket Jack described the place as, “…well stocked, musical and bright. This was the key, it seemed to us. Everything was fine, would continue to be fine, would eventually even get better as long as the supermarket did not slip.” (DeLillo 170) Jack perceived the supermarket as a sanctuary. It was a safe haven that allowed him, and others, to meditate, and it also influenced their life decisions.
In a not so pleasant encounter at the supermarket with one of his colleague’s, Eric Massingale, Jack made an attempt to resurface his confidence. Eric expressed his opinion on Jack’s non-intimidating, soft appearance and elaborated on his wardrobe. “You look so harmless, Jack. A big, harmless, aging, indistinct sort of guy.” (DeLillo 83)This led Jack to flourish an extreme dosage of shopping fever. Jack went on to exclaim that he was suddenly in “…the mood to shop.” The shopping fever did not retain itself there. The fever was imbedded to the rest of the family when Jack ordered them to pick out their Christmas gifts.
The satire of consumerism is further explored to recoup negative feelings, and low self-esteem. In an attempt to resurface his credibility Jack, “…shopped with reckless abandon…for immediate needs and distant contingencies…shopped for its own sake, looking and touching, inspecting merchandise I had no intention of buying, then buying it.” (DeLillo 84) Jack tended to purchase goods he consciously knew he did not need, and his wife Babette shared this trait as well. Babette purchased edible goods at the supermarket that she was reluctant to consume, and knew she would never consume. In the beginning of the novel, she was judged by her daughter Denise and her step-daughter Steffie, for purchasing the unpleasant and distasteful products. “She keeps buying that [food]. But she never eats it.” (DeLillo 7) Babette’s urge to purchase nonessential products were caused by an underlying desire to fit-in.
This novel can be classified as a parody due to Jack’s occupation. His alter-ego presented while at work was absurd and comical. His rationale for imposing a character that was intimidating and that demanded respect was bizarre. The reader is reluctant to take Jack seriously, especially when Jack believed that wearing sunglasses and a huge robe enforced him to be perceived as a respectable man.
Despite Jack’s comical attempt to embody Hitler, he was a man who to a certain extent took great pride in his academic identity. During one of their many visits to the supermarket, Jack observed, “I kept seeing colored lights.” (DeLillo 220) Throughout the novel Jack mentioned that his vision was constantly tainted with colorful spots. This was a mirroring effect of faithfully wearing dark sunglasses. A very significant parody epitomized by Jack to try and see the world as Hitler did. To try and perceive it from a dark angle, identical to how Hitler might have viewed it.
As the novel progressed, the parody fixed by Jack’s attempt to invoke Hitler became questionable. The reader learned that the founder of the Hitler Department lacked the tongue of German. This forced the reader to view Jack as a ridiculed and burlesqued character. At this point in the novel, it was almost impossible to accept Jack’s dedication and passion for his Hitler studies seriously.
DeLillo utilized parody to reflect Jack’s desire to receive prestige and respect from his students and colleagues’. Jack’s relentless attempts to embody Hitler are the most comical scenes from the novel. Combining the composition and literary elements of satire and parody helped contribute to the production of one of the most effective outlooks on the immense domination enforced by consumerism and the drastic desire to fit in, or to be an accepted part of society.

Works Cited
DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York : Penguin Group, 1986.…...

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