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.

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