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White Noise Essay

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White Noise: The Representation of Technology

Technology has become an indivisible part of our modern lives. It is present everywhere one looks and life without it would be impossible. In White Noise, the notion of modern technology is represented through the interaction between people and machines and our dependency on them, the steady flow of media affecting us daily, and the dangers technology poses for humankind.

In White Noise, technology makes its presence known in the way we depend on and interact with machines. An example of this is Jack’s use of the ATM machine when his financial calculations are confirmed and a sense of peace and comfort seems to overcome his uncertainty (Sparknotes), “What a pleasing interaction. I sensed that something of deep personal value, but not money, not that at all, had been authenticated and confirmed” (DeLillo 46). An instance where our dependency on the use of cars for transportation is shown at the very beginning of the novel, “The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus…The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes…” (DeLillo 3). Another occurrence of people’s dependency on the use of machines is throughout the airborne toxic event when sophisticated equipment and measuring devices need to be used to figure out the contamination levels and to protect the rescue personnel. The SIMUVAC technician who taps into Jack’s records on his computer is yet another example. Evidently, technology becomes visible through the constant interaction of people and machines and our addictive dependency on them.

Technology in White Noise is represented through “the constant stream of media sounds and images” and its effect on us (Sparknotes). The constant bombardment of media seems to control our lives. An example of this is when the girls feel the symptoms associated with the exposure to Nyodene Derivative only because the radio tells them what they are (Gradesaver), “At first they said skin irritation and sweaty palms…She also said the girls were complaining of sweaty palms” (DeLillo 111-112). The media and advertising is able to literally penetrate into our brains, our thoughts, and dreams. This is illustrated when Steffie mumbles the words “Toyota Celica” (DeLillo 155) while deeply asleep (Sparknotes). Even printed advertising and media manipulates reality for us (Gradesaver). A case of this occurring is the old man Treadwell who chooses to be read a supermarket tabloid once a week rather than a good book and it is the same tabloid where Babette finds the ad for Dylar; thus, further showing that advertising in the media works very well and how it affects us. Undoubtedly, media plays a very important role in our daily functioning and is another factor contributing to the theme of technology in this novel.
Technology often creates risks associated with it and; therefore, poses a threat to humankind. Man-made structures and materials to help humans can just as easily turn against us and create danger. The most obvious example is the Nyodene Derivative that is one such material with which things go terribly wrong; thus, creating the airborne toxic event (Sparknotes). Another portrayal of technology posing a danger is the sophisticated and precisely engineered substances to help us live easier by forgetting about reality. Dylar, a drug made for the reason of eliminating the fear of death is an example of this (Gradesaver). This drug has serious side effects where one side of the brain could die which would mean that one can move sideways, but not forward, and one would lose the ability to distinguish words from what is actually happening. For example, if someone would say “speeding bullet”, one would get on the ground and take cover. An additional occurrence of technology being a threat is the building materials used to build our own homes, schools and churches that are often questionable and prone to create more problems than solutions for humans. An instance of this in the novel is when the school had to be evacuated one day for undisclosed reasons,
No one knew what was wrong. Investigators said it could be the ventilating system, the paint or varnish, the foam insulation, the electrical insulation, the cafeteria food, the rays emitted by microcomputers, the asbestos fireproofing, the adhesive on shipping containers, the fumes from the chlorinated pool, or perhaps something deeper, finer-grained, more closely woven into the basic state of things. (DeLillo 35)

Clearly, technology does not always make things better for us and it can sometimes even create a certain risk associated with it.
In conclusion, technology is a universal component found everywhere. In White Noise, modern technology is embodied by the continuous contact with and our reliance on the usage of appliances, the input of media having an effect on us every day, and the fact that technology can sometimes put our own safety in jeopardy. Overall, modern life as we know it would not be possible without technology. Our lives simply would not function without cars, appliances, electricity, etc., and because technology is defined as anything that is mad-made, we would find ourselves back in the Stone Age if we were to take all our precious technology away.

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

“White Noise.” Gradesaver. 15 Oct. 2005. .

“White Noise.” Sparknotes. 15 Oct. 2005.

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