The Spell of Things
There cannot be a sole object that is vibrant matter in Don DeLillo’s White Noise. As Jane Bennet discusses in Vibrant Matter there is a “complicated web of dissonant connections between bodies (4). Just as her debris on Cold Spring Lane “provoked affects in” her (4), Dylar and its efficient delivery system (178-9), Babette the wife, the human brain, Vernon Dickey’s gun, Murray’s theoretical discourse during “the long walk” (268), Winnie Richards’ information on Willie Mink, Germantown and Iron City, and the motel room affect Jack Gladney in a forceful way.
Despite Jack’s insistence that “the whole point of Babette is that she speaks to me, she reveals and confides” (183), Babette plots like his previous wives (183). The fear of death, a uniquely human fear according to “Mr. Gray” (186), leads Babette into an affair with Mr. Gray in order to obtain Dylar which is supposed to work on the emotional neurotransmitters that control the fear of death (190). Science is able, or at least seeks, to reduce emotion and thought by controlling “every emotion or sensation [and] its own neurotransmitters” (190). As Winnie Richards contemplates, the brain is a “system of intercommunication [that] is awe-inspiring. It’s like a galaxy that you can hold in your hand, only more complex, more mysterious.” Instead of being in awe of this system, both Jack and Babette attempt to reduce their terror of death. Babette does so by “reducing [problems] to their simplest parts (182) and researches possible solutions, discovering and experimenting with Dylar (183) only to realize that it doesn’t work as her memory lapses, a result of her fear, increase (191).
Jack’s fear of death (15), “in the dark [his] mind run[ning] on like a devouring machine, the only thing awake in the universe” (213), is equal to Babette’s fear, and the knowledge that a drug that might work to cure that fear sets him on a path to find the remaining Dylar pills, a type of magical object (213), his own Holy Shroud of Turin (139) to protect him from paralyzing night terrors (18) that arrive at the odd hours of night (47). During “the long walk” (268), Murray tells Jack that he had failed to remove his fear of death by trying to learn German and hiding behind Hitler (274). Murray further theorizes that Jack must learn to “say good-bye to himself” (280) and embark on a homicidal rage that is based in a “reservoir of potential violence in the male psyche” (279). All Jack can do is return home and throw out more material objects from the cramped and cluttered house. He “bore a personal grudge against these things” (280), and it was his sole recourse to violence.
But Denise’s destruction of the remaining Dylar (246) had coincided with Vernon Dickey giving Jack a loaded weapon (241). Once Winnie Richards reveals the whereabouts of Willie Mink in Germantown, Iron City (285-6), Jack’s mind becomes an assemblage of Dylar, Babette, the German-made gun, Murray’s theories, Mr. Gray / Willie Mink, the German language, Hitler Studies, and Germantown. With the gun as “a second reality for [him] to inhabit” (283), Jack now knows where his shroud, the Dylar pills, is located, and he has the means to enact a homicidal rage to move “closer to things in their actual state” (291). Upon nearing death and second sight (295) by shooting Willie Mink with the German-made gun, in Germantown, Jack realizes “who [he] was in the network of meanings” (297). He sees ”beyond words” (298) and on “higher plane of energy” (298). He has discovered his true Being, his interiority. But his attempt to “advance the art of human consciousness” beyond his fear by plotting, by literally taking aim at something (278) is destroyed when Mink shoots him in the wrist (298) which restores “the normal order of matter and sensation” and causes Jack to “see for the first time as a person” (299). The spell of things is no longer upon him. He has become himself.
Bennet, Jane. Vibrant Matter. n.d. PDF. 31 mar. 2016. 1-38. Provided by professor.
DeLillo, Don. White Noise. Penguin: New York, 2009.