White Noise, Don DeLillo

Historical and Cultural Context

In the years following World War II, American literature entered a new phase called postmodernism. This was a time when the old, clear-cut ways of understanding the world didn't fit anymore. Writers like Don DeLillo, who penned White Noise, explored how the busy buzz of city life, the flicker of TV screens, and the lure of shop windows began to shape people's thoughts and experiences.

As the 1980s rolled around, the United States faced a growing unease with science and technology. Environmental catastrophes and high-profile accidents made many Americans question whether technology was safe. Yet, amidst this fear, the rise of personal computers offered a glimmer of hope, showing that technology could still improve lives.

Economically, the 80s were booming times. Americans had more money to spend, and they spent it freely, often on things they didn't need. The era was marked by a "show-off" culture, where the things you owned were a sign of your success. Large companies grew even larger, and the phrase "Greed is good" seemed to sum up the spirit of the times.

Television transformed entertainment, with channels like MTV reshaping how people enjoyed music. It was also the era of 'eatertainment' — places like Chuck E. Cheese and Hooters combined dining with fun and games, embodying the decade's love for leisure and consumerism. These elements created a vibrant, if sometimes overwhelming, tapestry of American culture that DeLillo captured in his writing.

A) Romanticism

B) Realism

C) Modernism

D) Postmodernism

A) Space travel

B) Internet usage

C) Environmental disasters

D) Medical advancements

A) Less spending

B) Higher taxes

C) Conspicuous consumption

D) Decrease in big companies

A) "Save is safe"

B) "Greed is good"

C) "Less is more"

D) "Share the wealth"

DISCUSSION: How do you think our daily lives are affected by the constant noise from the media, like adverts on TV, messages on our phones, and advertising everywhere? Do you believe this "white noise" changes the way we think or feel?

Further reading