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Jack is sure that Vernon thinks he is incompetent on account of this difference between them.Vernon seems to live spontaneously, driving fourteen hours to visit the Gladneys on a whim, and arriving unannounced.
In literature, a foil is a character who sets off another by contrast.
In the case of Orest, here is a young man who seemingly has no fear of death.
The tragedy for Jack, and for Babette, is that they cannot return to Wilder’s happy condition. The consumer society, in which technology rules and change takes place very quickly, is not beneficial for everyone.
The “plot” of their lives is moving on to its inevitable conclusion, which must always be death. While the young and the middle-aged do well, thriving in the incessant “white noise” buzz of consumerism, the old are seemingly left behind, bewildered and ill-equipped to survive.
He smokes, has a nasty, persistent cough, has a limp, suffers from insomnia, and his left hand shakes, among other conditions.
Babette worries about him but he does not worry about himself. His innocence, which fascinates Jack, is often contrasted to Jack’s worried condition. Wilder has not yet learned to talk, and his mother and stepfather comment that they prefer it that way; it is as if they want Wilder to live in a state of innocence forever in the hope that some of that innocent condition will rub off on them.Jack finds this incredible; he does not understand how Orest can do something that seems to defy the natural human fear of death.This is why he questions Orest so persistently, trying to find out what the young man’s motivations are.De Lillo’s style is distinctive and his themes are consistent, so that one can identify a De Lillo novel after reading only a few paragraphs, despite the variety of subject matter.De Lillo nevertheless does not work apart from and outside literary tradition. How do Vernon Dickey and Orest Mercator act as foils to Jack?Both Vernon Dickey, Jack’s father-in-law, and Orest Mercator, a friend of Jack’s son, Heinrich, acts as foils to Jack in terms of their very different attitudes to death.Jack, in contrast, knows that death has already touched . Orest is young, and so it is perhaps more natural for him to think himself invulnerable.But Vernon is old, much older than Jack, and yet he too seems to have no fear of death.Jack, who acts with much more deliberation and calculation, would never do something like that.More to the point, Vernon make fun of his own ailments.