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Masculinity in Don DeLillo’s White Noise: Mapping the Self, Killing the Other

  • Michael James Rizza
Chapter

Abstract

Over the course of Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Jack Gladney attempts to understand his relation to capitalism as it simultaneously disperses outward over the globe and invades his body and mind. He journeys from modern to postmodern consciousness. Yet the modern male subject, as the novel seems to suggest, does not smoothly evolve nor easily abandon his sense of a centered self. He suffers a crisis of identity. Thus, Jack occupies a paradoxical and disorienting position between modern alienation and postmodern fragmentation, which he seeks to resolve by reinstalling a violent form of masculinity through a revenge plot. His primary response to psychic fragmentation is his botched effort to cultivate what he calls his “imperial self” by killing Willie Mink, the man who cuckolded him. Set within an otherwise meandering narrative, Jack’s violent but failed gesture to secure his identity would provide his life with the order and logic that it appears to lack. By plotting Mink’s murder and finally providing form and direction to the narrative, Jack imposes not merely a revenge plot, but more particularly the patriarchal structure of an erotic triangle upon the previously aimless days of his life. The two males in the erotic triangle comically represent two conflicting versions of identity in their most extreme and ludicrous forms: in one corner, the expansive, imperialistic modern subject and, in the other, the postmodern schizophrenic—meanwhile, Babette, in the third corner, refuses to play the empty female cipher in this male competition. Of course, Jack’s failure to assume authority, take control, and organize events is inevitable. During his showdown with Mink, who is his schizophrenic double, Jack tries to resuscitate in himself a moribund form of masculinity that has little room in postmodern America. Narrated with irony and self-reflexivity, DeLillo’s novel offers no easy resolution to identity crisis.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael James Rizza
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishEastern New Mexico UniversityPortalesUSA

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