White Noise

April 30, 2012

“Maybe we ought to be more concerned about the billowing cloud,” she said. “It’s because of the kids we keep saying nothing’s going to happen. We don’t want to scare them.”
“Nothing is going to happen.”
“I know nothing’s going to happen, you know nothing’s going to happen. But at some level we ought to think about it anyway, just in case.”
“These things happen to poop people who live in exposed areas. Society is set up in such a way that it’s the poor and the uneducated who suffer the main impact of natural and man-made disasters. People in low-lying areas get the floods, people in shanties get the hurricanes and tornados. I’m a college professor. Did you ever see a college professor rowing a boat down his own street in one of those TV floods? We live in a neat and pleasant town near a college with a quaint name. These things don’t happen in places like Blacksmith.” (111-112)

This passage in the novel exposes the fears of Jack and Babette in dealing with the airborne toxic event. Although Jack and Babette do have an obsession with death throughout the parts of the book before this event, it truly brings it out. Jack is lulled into a sense of security wherein the daunting cloud of smoke does not deter his belief that they can dies by it. Babette, on the other hand, clues into this false sense of security and questions its reality. In this event, Babette and Jack are on opposite sides of the spectrum of doubt and uncertainty. This passage also exposes the idea of the book that uncertainty and doubt is a pervasive part of society, especially in the lives of Jack and Babette, who seem to be so sure in their relationship. Another aspect of the novel this passage exposes is the nature of social class. Part of Jack’s certainty in his safety is through his class in society. He views his class as a safety net of being saved from disaster, which in fact is a false perception, as uncertainty and risk is all-encomapssing.


April 23, 2012

Scene: The man and the boy have confronted the thief who had stolen their cart. The man orders the thief to take all his clothes off distressing the boy, who begins to cry. The man forces the boy to leave the thief behind, yelling at him that he is trying to teach him to be strong because he won’t be there for him forever. Later, on the beach, the boy, still upset, tells his father that the thief had only done so, because, “He’s just hungry.” The father reacts angrily, saying, I’m scared. Do you understand? I am scared! You’re not the one who has to worry about everything.” The boy quietly responds, “I am. […] I am the one who has to worry.” This statement causes the father to agree to leave the thief’s clothes and some food behind for him.

This exchange depicts the strife in differentiating wrong from right when under the dire circumstances of a post-apocalyptic world. The man, in these circumstances, is the moral compass for the boy, as he teaches the boy what is right for them as the “good guys” in this world. The man’s actions in dealing with the thief trouble the boy as they go against what he views as the “good guys” would do. This scene, along with others in the film, reveals the boy’s struggle to identify his father as a hero, while still being able to survive in the world of the film. The man’s actions against the thief, who can be clearly defined as a villain, cause the boy to feel as if his father is acting in a villain-like manner. In this scenario, the boy with his moral qualms, becomes the hero in contrast to his father. He reveals the just like his father, he also worries, yet is still able to abide by the principles his father has taught him in order for them both to remain the “good guys.”



April 16, 2012

There was a pause, and then she said angrily, “It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, Dwight. We’ve all got to do that some time. It’s all the things I’m going to miss…” […] I wouldn’t know if Paris got a bomb or not. Maybe it’s all there still just as it was, with the sun shining down the street the way you’d want to see it. That’s the way I like to think about that sort of place. It’s just that folks don’t live there any more.” (41)

This passage in the book made me think of the world in the novel as being like the ancient world. The characters have no way of knowing what exactly is going on the rest world as there’s no way of communicating with the world. They can only know about the world that they can see, the only form of feasible reality. Every other place is accessible through imagination, as Captain Towers does, or through difficult travel, which the navy does and is not open to the whole population. Also, the technology of the new world, especially cars, have been rendered unusable due to the loss of fuel, casing the population to rely on older modes of transport, such as bullock cart, making the world quite literally like the ancient world. This situation of the new world is made further pessimistic as it is not the way the world was from the beginning of time, but the characters have known much of the world and then it has been taken away from them. This results in them feeling like they are missing a part of their lives, as opposed to the innocent unawareness that was the ancient world.


April 2, 2012

Scene: Douglas Hall has discovered his 1990s world is simulated and questions Jane about it. Douglas identifies himself as a puppet, to which Jane replies, “A puppet can’t have a soul.” Douglas claims he doesn’t have a soul, to which Jane replies he does, an anomaly of the 1990s simulation they had created in 2024, wherein the people there should not know anything of the simulation, but both Fuller and Douglas had figured it out. Jane believes it means that they do have souls, but Douglas says that since this is simulated, pulling a plug means the end of the simulation, his actions, thereby his unexpected soul. Jane explains Douglas’ link to his user David, who is her husband. She says that she knows Douglas because she has watched him ever since the simulation was created, seeing his acts of kindness and falling in love with him. Douglas argues how she can love him if he isn’t real as a dream cannot be loved, crying. Jane replies, “You’re more real to me than anything I’ve ever known.”

This scene in the film explores what it means to be part of a created or simulated world, and its repercussions of humanity. Douglas’ discovery of his role in a simulation causes him to lose belief in the importance of his own actions, as this behavior can eradicated along with the simulation. This disconnect between the morality and self can also be seen in the change in Ashton once he understands that he is part of a fake, created world. Ashton becomes increasingly erratic, acting without fear of repercussion as he has lost all the semblance to reality that had been given to his simulated world Although these simulated worlds are created, the characters of Douglas and Fuller in particular, beg the question of whether or not these worlds and the people therein are real, a question linked to the question of their having souls. Jane, through her observations of Douglas and Fuller believes they do. She is also inspired by their superior intellect, as they have both figured out the simulation of their 1990s world, something that has not happened in any of the thousands of other simulations. Jane’s belief in the presence of soul in Douglas is supported by her own feelings for him, culminating in her idea that he is the most real thing she knows, even though he is a simulated projection of her husband.
The ending of the film further complicates the idea of the 1990s world as a simulation from the 2024 world, with the 1937 world being an offshoot of the 1990s simulation, by the use of the graphic of a computer turning off. It makes me wonder if the 2024 is also some sort of simulation by a more advanced species, blurring the idea of Jane, her father, and David being real, while Douglas and the others in the 1990 world being created. Another aspect of the film that complicates these rules of the world is the transfer of the consciousness of the simulated person into the person jacking in to them, such as when Ashton travels into Whitney’s 1990s body and Douglas travels to David’s 2024 body. This can mean that since the consciousness is fully formed, it is real, a soul, and moving it to the root of the simulations only solidifies its existence.