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Exploring the Enigmatic City in Don DeLillo's White Noise

May 17, 2024

White Noise, the captivating postmodern novel by Don DeLillo, has intrigued readers since its publication in 1985. Set in the fictional location of 'Blacksmith,' DeLillo beckons readers into a world as ambiguous as it is thought-provoking. Let's explore the city of Blacksmith and how it shapes the story and its characters.

The Atmospheric Essence of Blacksmith

DeLillo's choice of the name 'Blacksmith' for the city in which White Noise takes place is both intriguing and symbolic. It suggests ideas of both creation and destruction, as a metalworker (blacksmith) would fashion objects from raw materials while also destroying their previous form. This dual nature of the name is reflective of the novel's themes, as characters grapple with ideas of life and death, reality and fiction.

The Setting as a Character in White Noise

White Noise not only uses the enigmatic city of Blacksmith as its backdrop but also as a driving force in the plot. The city takes an active role in shaping the story and its characters. The Gladney family, for instance, is affected by the synthetic nature of their surroundings, making it difficult to discern what is real and what is not. At the same time, Jack Gladney, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, is a professor in a college town, which suggests an intellectual atmosphere where ideas and ideologies are prominent.

Additionally, the city experiences a catastrophic event, the Airborne Toxic Event, which becomes a significant part of the novel's central themes. The hazardous cloud that hovers above the city takes on a life of its own, an embodiment of the characters' fear of death and the unknown. The Airborne Toxic Event further pushes the story's examination of the intersection between reality and the artificial.

White Noise's Blacksmith and the Real World

By situating White Noise in the indeterminate city of Blacksmith, DeLillo creates a setting that serves as a metaphor for modern society. Blacksmith can be perceived as a representation of the uncertainties and anxieties present in the real world. This artistic choice allows the novel to ask profound questions about life, death, nature, and reality that continue to resonate with readers.

In conclusion, while White Noise is set in the fictional city of Blacksmith, its themes and ideas are rooted in the uncertainties and complexities of modern-day life. The city serves as the foundation for the novel's thought-provoking exploration of these existential questions, making Blacksmith an integral part of the novel's tapestry.

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