Response 7: Pynchon and DeLillo (Part I)

DUE: October 31, 2013

Focus your seventh (and for some folks, your final!) response on Pynchon's short story "Entropy" or Part I of DeLillo's White Noise. Here are a few prompts if you're having trouble getting started:

  • In "Entropy," Saul complains about the noisiness of human language. Abstract words come along with "Ambiguity. Redundance. Irrelevance, even. Leakage. All this is noise. Noise screws up your signal, makes for disorganization in the circuit" (CR 168). Choose a longer dialogue in White Noise and apply Saul's theory (i.e. communication theory) to an analysis of it. Do the exchanges between the characters amount to noise? How and why? Are there any moments when they find a signal in the noise and they communicate clearly? Is there anything to be learned from noise--from leakage of meaning? Examples of longer dialogues: discussion about rain between Jack and Heinrich in Chapter 6, bedroom encounter between Jack and Babette in Chapter 7, the family conversation at the beginning of Chapter 17.
  • In class on 10/24, we defined entropy as a measure of sameness and conformity. For example, the process of a sandcastle dissolving back into the sameness of the beach, a department store which looks like any other department store anywhere in the country, or the tiresome process of wading through seemingly endless research online. You know that moment, when everything looks the same and you can't remember if you have read something before or not? In each case, the measure of entropy is increasing as a system's energy dissipates and loses its focus. Looking at either the short story or the novel, which characters try to control the measure of entropy and avoid complete uniformity or disorder? Which characters seem to embrace entropy? What does this tell you about the character's motives and what purpose they serve in the story?
  • Choose a character, theme, image, repeated word or phrase group, or a particularly rich passage from "Entropy" or the first part of White Noise. Do a focused analysis of this small element to see what you can learn about the text as a whole.
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