White Noise

In his novel, White Noise, Don DeLillo stages many of his scenes within the local supermarket. Housing many material possessions and excessive advertisement, the supermarket provides a perfect backdrop for a commentary on the overwhelming amount of information in the world. DeLillo uses the scenes in the supermarket, and the character’s emotional reactions to the space and items for sale to suggest that finding the meaning of one’s existence is not only impossible, but that such a meaning does not actually exist.
By placing Murray in nearly every supermarket scene, DeLillo exposes man’s obsession with finding the meaning of life by reading ever-present and encoded “signs”. During Murray’s rant to Babette about the Tibetan theory on death in the supermarket, Murray relays many points about decoding and deciphering secret messages hidden in the supermarket around them. Similarly, Murray explains to Jack that he is happy to be in the supermarket, and that this environment actually allows him to think and see new things with more clarity. Clearly, Murray believes himself to be an expert in the matter of decoding these secret messages available to him in the supermarket, and yet at the end of his rant he digresses and says that it is impossible for anyone to read through the “layers of unspeakability” (p.38). By coupling Murray’s inability to decode the ambient signs around him in the supermarket with his extremely frequent trips there, DeLillo shows that Murray is willing to devote a large part of his life to a task that he admits is impossible. Furthermore, DeLillo uses this obsession to parallel man’s obsession with finding the meaning of life, which he suggests is equally impossible.
By linking the supermarket and its products to religious experiences, DeLillo illuminates the artificiality of religion as a whole. Throughout the supermarket scenes in his novel, DeLillo shows the characters receiving a feeling of spiritual healing or emotional satisfaction during...