Gravity's Rainbow is a novel by American writer Thomas Pynchon. Lengthy, complex, and Create a book · Download as PDF · Printable version. A Gravity's rainbow companion. Bibliography: p. Includes index. 1. Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity's rainbow. I. Title PSY55G \54 ISBN. Winner of the National Book Award, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the twentieth.
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Beyond the Zero Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and c. Gravity's Rainbow. Home · Gravity's Rainbow Author: Pynchon Thomas Rainbow · Read more · Rainbow Six. Read more · Rainbow six · Read more. NY Times | homeranking.info 11 March New York Times Review. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. One of the.
The Prince. There is a passage in Gravity's Rainbow that serves to illustrate the relation of empirical evidence to truth that functions in the novel. Traven, the most difficult since James Joyce" The Qualified Optimism of Gravity's Rainbow. Here is a sentence, chosen at random: Slothrop has been sent, un- wittingly, to aid in the destruction of the Herero
There will be precious little room for any hope at all. You can see how important a discovery like that would be" Impor- tant--and frightening: Pointsman is so unconscious of para- digms that he can talk of "souls" in the same breath as com- plete physiological determinism in Pavlovian terms, there is only physiology.
He is so involved with puzzle-solving that he has no thought of human consequences. An important aspect of Kuhn's work is the doubt he casts on the absolute objectivity of science. Pointsman's faith in Pavlov and reverence for "the Book" that Pavlov wrote are typical of "normal" science. Textbooks, says Kuhn, are "pedagogic vehicles for the perpetuation of normal science" , or, in other words, devices for upholding and preserving paradigms.
The emergence of new paradigms is rarely a cause for rejoicing in a scientific community. Be- cause commitments to scientific paradigms are usually less than scientifically objective, the transition from paradigm to paradigm resembles a holy war more than an enlightenment.
Kuhn's analogy is, once again, theological: Science is thus not so far removed from theology as its professed objectivity would lead one to expect. A paradigm requires, ultimately, a leap of faith.
In the more than two decades since Kuhn's book ap- peared, his ideas have been discussed and adopted by many disciplines besides those of "pure" science.
One recent ar- ticle by Terrence Ball discusses the impact that Kuhn's ideas have had in political science and some of the objec- tions that have been raised to Kuhn's views. One of the major objections expressed in the political science commu- nity concerned the "all-or-nothing" picture of paradigm shifts that Kuhn seems to paint.
Ball remarks that the Newtonian paradigm was not a monolith until Einstein demolished it utterly; i t was, rather, a ravaged shell of a theory, cracked in many places, and no longer able to support the ever-increasing weight of the evidence against it. Kuhn's "big- bang," or revolutionary, account of scientific change does not fit the facts, even here.
It has been said that "many a beau- tiful theory has been destroyed by an ugly fact. A contrary fact remains merely an anomaly until a new paradigm is found to explain the fact.
In Gravity's Rainbow, Pudding and Pointsman cannot explain occurrences through the chain paradigm, but this problem does not cause them to a- bandon the paradigm, because they have nowhere to go, no readily available new paradigm to adopt.
Imre Lakatos has emphasized that Kuhn's enterprise "concerns our central in- tellectual values, and has implications not only for theor- etical physics but also for the underdeveloped social sci- ences and even for moral and political philosophy.
What I finally came to see was that the identifi- cation of what was real and normative occurred within interpretive communities and what was norm- ative for the members of one community would be seen as strange if it could be seen at all by the members of another. In other words, there is no single way of reading that is correct or natu- ral, only "ways of reading" that are extensions of community perspectives.
One of the concepts that this growing awareness of scientific thought has served to popularize is that of en- tropy, derived from the second law of thermodynamics. In fact, entropy has been applied across disciplinary lines so widely that there is a danger of missing its metaphorical, paradigmatic status. Kuhn himself notes the hold that sta- tistical thermodynamics have gained in the minds of scien- tists and the idea has been used in so many disciplines and contexts that a popular literature has started to grow up around the subject.
Jeremy Rifkin has written with ghost- writer Ted Howard a sensational and sensationally flawed account of entropy in its many applications, making sweeping claims of entropy's apocalyptic importance for history, technology, metaphysics, economics, agriculture, the mili- tary, education, health; and Christianity--all in pages.
Rifkin will provide an excellent example of the dangers of being seduced by the seemingly simple and irrevocable nature of entropy, or, for that matter, by any single paradigm or metaphor. Entropy became a buzzword in the fifties, but, as with most such words, its meaning has remained vague. There is an apocry- phal story that, when Claude Shannon was looking for a word to describe uncertainty in the transmission of information, he was told to use entropy, because "no one knows what en- tropy is, so in a debate you will always have the advan- tage.
The first law of thermodynamics li- terally "the movement of heat" is the law of conservation of energy, that energy is neither created nor destroyed. While the first law measures quantity, the second law mea- sures quality of energy--its usefulness in performing tasks. Rudolf Clausius, who formulated these laws and coined the term "entropy," summed up the first two laws succinctly: The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum" Campbell Clausius formulated these laws in the Nineteenth Century with a pure- ly mechanical thermodynamic device, the steam engine, in mind.
Entropy was seen as a physical property, as being simple and mechanical. Energy, in other words, tends to disperse, to move towards a state of equilibrium. Seen on a universal scale, entropy denotes the movement of the universe towards even- tua1 and inevitable "heat death" or equilibrium, the ces- sation of motion and thus life Rifkin In pynchon's early short story, "Entropy," the char- acter Callisto undergoes a Kuhnian conversion to a cosmology of entropy when he realizes that "the entropy of of an iso- 1ated system always continually increases," and that "the isolated system--ga1axy, engine, human being, culture, what- ever--must evolve spontaneously toward the Condition of the More Probable" Slow Learner As entropy increases, the universe, and all closed systems in the universe, tend naturally to deteriorate and lose their distinctiveness, to move from the least to the most probable state, from a state of organization and differentation in which distinctions and forms exist, to a state of chaos and sameness.
Callisto reacts by adopting a kind of bunker mentality, living in a "Rousseau-like fantasy," iso- lated in a hothouse jungle it had taken him seven years to weave together.
Hermetically sealed, it was a tiny enclave of regularity in the city's chaos, alien to the vagaries of the weather, of national politics, of any civil disorder. In contrast to Callisto's island of order in a sea of chaos, although equally in reaction to society, is Meatball Mulligan's lease-breaking party in the apartment directly below Callisto's. Callisto hopes that he is "strong enough not to drift into the graceful decadence of an enervated fatalism" 73 , and it is decadence, whether graceful or not, that characterizes Mulligan's party, forty hours old at the he- ginning of the story: On the kitchen floor, amid a litter of empty cham- pagne fifths, were Sandor Rojas and three friends, playing spit in the ocean and staying awake on Heidseck and benzedrine pills.
In the living room Duke, Vincent, Krinkles, and Paco sat crouched over a fifteen-inch speaker which had been bolted into the top of a wastepaper basket, listening to twenty-seven watts' worth of The Heroes Gate at Kiev.
They all wore hornrimmed sunglasses and rapt expressions, and smoked funny-looking ciga- rettes which contained not, as you might expect, tobacco, but an adulterated form of cannabis sativa. In the introduction to Slow Learner, Pynchon does not speak kindly of "Entropy": Callisto's vision is entropy at its most determin- istic, and this apocalyptic vision is Rifkin's as well, but both are seduced by the apparent simplicity of the en- tropy principle.
To view entropy in this deterministic way is to ignore the fact that entropy is a statistical quality more than an observable physical quality Campbell Being statistical, entropy is subject to probability much as Mexico notes the rockets falling on London to be.
I'm sorry. That's the Monte Carlo Fallacy. No matter how many have fallen inside a particu- lar square, the odds remain the same as they al- ways were. Each hit is independent of all the others. Bombs are not dogs. No link. No memory. No conditioning. Pointsman is looking for determinism, for links be- tween successive events.
However, in terms of probability, each new event is unrelated to the preceding events. Each rocket falls at random. Jeremy Rifkin is fond of attribu- ting to entropy an "iron hand" 52 of strict determinism, maintaining that "every single physical activity that human- kind engages in is totally subject to the iron-clad impera- tive expressed in the first and second laws of thermodyna- mics" 8.
This is "the truth that will set us free" It becomes increasingly clear that Rifkin has undergone a Kuhnian conversion, that he is entirely trapped within the entropy paradigm, and that his conversion is not just vaguely analogous to a religious experience: There is great beauty in the Entropy Law. It guides us through the cosmic theater with a bit- tersweet authority, assured of the ultimate fate that lies ahead but leaving to us the decision of how to proceed.
Both have succumbed to paradigms. Both try to determine reality absolutely through intellectual con- structs. He still finds the entropy paradigm a useful ve- hicle for social, political, and economic commentary: Taking and not giving back, demanding that "pro- ductivity" and "earnings ll keep on increasing with time, the System removing from the rest of the World these vast quantities of energy to keep its own tiny desperate fraction showing a profit: The System mayor may not understand that i t is only buying time.
Living inside the System is like riding across the country in a bus driven by a maniac bent on suicide. The use of entropy in this way is not problematic. However, pynchon also uses entropy as it is applied to in- formation theory. Norbert Wiener has said that "it is pos- sible to interpret the information carried by a message as essentially the negative of its entropy" In thermodynamics, entropy is regarded as a physical quality. In information theory, entropy is a quality of perception, a factor limiting what can be known.
Entropy is the noise that limits the recep- tion of information Campbell Slothrop intuits a re- lationship between entropy and information: David R. Mesher writes of "Their" enterprise in Gravity's Rainbow: They cannot know or control everything; this would be theoretically possible only in a state of max- imum entropy.
But Their efforts to gather infor- mation and to synthesize impell us ever closer to that state, which is Their ultimate objective in any case. The plan went wrong. He is being broken down in- stead, and scattered. He becomes the sum of what others perceive. Bodine is "one of the few who can still see Slothrop as any sort of integral creature any more. Most of the others gave up long ago trying to hold him together, even as a concept--'It's just got too remote"s what they usually say" Pynchon's novel, however, holds out possibilities for retarding or reversing this individual entropy.
Mesher uses the term "negative entropy" and defines it as "the creation of order We piss on Their rational arrangements. In another reference to the entropy paradigm, pynchon writes "Energy inside is just as real, just as binding and inescap- able, as energy that shows" , suggesting that intui- tive, internal knowledge informs the world just as much as does entropy-causing, external information gathering.
There is a way for his characters to fight against "Them;1l survival depends on creative paranoia, on creative subversion--the war that Roger sings of in the counterforce travelling song: But I'm telling you today, That it ain't the only way, And there's shit you won't be eating anymore-- They've been paying you to love it, But the time has come to shove it, And it isn't a resistance, it's a war. The last line of the novel, "Now everybody--," trails off ambiguously into either apocalypse or expectancy.
Technique The hope that I find in Gravity's Rainbow should not, perhaps, be overemphasized: If the thermodynamic slide is not determined, it still expres- ses the tendency of the world in pynchon's projection. That tendency is aided by the technological rationale of action that governs the thought of contemporary man. The term "technique," popularized by Jaques Ellul, describes the ha- bits of mind perceived behind "Their" conspiracies. One has to wonder what the "counterforce" can do to thwart this slide, but as soon as the question is expressed, the verb "do" draws attention to itself.
The idea of action gathers pejorative associations in the novel, as, for instance, in the scene where Ensign Morituri prevents Greta Erdman from killing a Jewish child: For a moment the three of them swayed, locked to- gether. Gray Nazi statuary: Immortality was not the is- sue. That's what made them different. No sur- vival, beyond the senses taking of it--no handing down.
Doomed as d'Annunzio's adventure at Fiume, as the Reich itself, as the poor creatures from whom the boy now tore loose and ran off into the evening. Action seldom helps any of pynchon's characters to find answers.
Perhaps the most unanswerable question posed by Gravity's Rainbow is who are "They? Oedipa searches for a shadowy "organization" called the Trystero, but "They" are not an ordered group with a visible hierarchy and, indeed, "They" may not exist at all, or at least not in the sense that personal pronoun seems to imply.
Stencil, himself existing only in the third person, searches for the elusive V. Slothrop seeks the Schwarzgerat, a technological grail that he hopes will shed some light on his predicament, while making some sense of the world in general, but, bouncing around the Zone like a particle in a cloud chamber, Slothrop gathers information but no answers.
Oedipa's alternatives are to walk away from the "conspiracy" or to go to the auc- tion to seek new information in the hope of showing the Trystero to have an objective existence. But the first al- ternative is no alternative at all.
You lose. A game try, all one hour's worth. She should have left then and gone back to Berkeley, to the hotel. But couldn't" The second alternative is equally as futile as each new piece of information brings new noise along with it.
The gathering process itself is highly entropic, and the "facts" merely confuse. Stencil has at least a sense of the futili- ty of his quest and he chooses to "approach and avoid" 44 his quarry. It is the search itself that is important: His random movements before the war had given way to a great single movement from inertness to--if not vitality, then at least activity. Work, the chase--for it was V.
He simply avoids becoming inert, or inorganic. Action keeps him in a kind of limbo, and Stencil is aware of a problem, but nowhere near a solution. Slothrop begins to doubt as he flies to Geneva, contemplating "the night skiers far below, out on the slopes, crisscrossing industri- ously, purifying and perfecting their Fascist ideal of Ac- tion, Action, Action, once his own shining reason for being. No more. No more" The problem for these characters lies not in the seeking, but in the way they seek.
The pronoun "They" is, of course, misleading, since "They" are a personalized abstraction of the "technological society" to borrow Jacque Ellul's phrase issuing from the paranoid mind. We for we have met the enemy and we are "They" are a society dominated by our technology, and by the methodology that creates, and in turn is reinforced by, technology. That methodology was dubbed "technique" by Jacques Ellul and defined as "the totality of methods ra- tionally arrived at and having absolute efficiency for a given stage of development in every field of human acti- vity" xxv.
Technique is the rationale of the machine, and a machine, in Barrett's words, is "logically speaking, a decision procedure" All decisions are predetermined by the technique. Herbert Marcuse notes that society's "basic organization is that of the machine pro- cess" , 3. In a society governed by technique, we all become technicians, specialists in small areas with very little concern for the whole. According to Ellul, Technique is organized as a closed world. It utilizes what the mass of men do not understand.
It is even based on human ignorance. The indivi- dual, in order to make use of technical instru- ments, no longer needs to know about his civili- zation. Only the intrinsic monism of technique assures cohesion between human means and acts. Technique reigns alone, a blind force and more clear-sighted than the best human intel- ligence.
In Ellul's view, it is technique, and thus the needs of technology that are foremost in this tech- nical world.
The force is blind because it focuses on means, ignoring the desirability of the end results. It is clear-sighted in that i t has a singularity of purpose un- matched by human intelligence. Doing our job s. That's all we are" Ellul quotes Jacques Soustelle's remark concerning the atomic bomb: His fascination with rocket technology is completely technical in Ellul's sense of the word: I couldn't believe it Leni I saw something that, that no one ever did before.
Even before the war, Pokler and his col- leagues in the "Verein ftlr Raumschiffahrt" have no concern for the source of their funding or the military purposes of their funders: Once involved in wartime research, Pokler moves away from theoretical to engineering concerns and displays technical man's dominant rational tendency towards simplicity: As Pokler becomes more specialized, more of a technician, he becomes less able to deal with human problems and more willing to abdicate re- sponsibility to the state.
His wife, Leni, leaves him, ta- king their daughter, Ilse, with her, but they end up in a "re-education" camp. He'd heard there were camps, but saw nothing sinister in it: There is an intense irony to the fact that, in an information age, "We would end by building a tower of Babel where each layer of the structure cannot communicate with the next" Pokier's case suggests that there is no way to separate the rationale of the workplace from one's "private" life.
Pokier, however, is not a monster, and Pynchon must be given credit for a sympathetic portrayal of a character whom we are loath to see in ourselves. We all become tech- nicians in a world of specialization, and a technician is "a device for recording effects and results obtained by various techniques" Ellul Ellul emphasizes the mechanical quality of the technician: Technicians are not very complicated beings.
In truth, they are as simple as their techniques, which more and more assimilate them. The Commu- nists are no doubt right in thinking that all mor- al problems will be resolved when all men are technicians. Technique may "modify man's very essence" Ellul in a truly Procrustean manner, but the process is not one hundred percent efficient as no technology can be.
Pokier is not happy; enter Weissmann to modify his condition by introducing "lise" to the equation. When P6kler feels guilt for having been away while his colleagues died in a bombing raid, Weissmann alleviates his guilt and reintegrates him into the community of technicians by placing him at Ground Zero for a rocket test Weissmann is a technician overseeing technicians, an example of entropy at work: In his epiphany in Gravity's Rainbow, Enzian sees the bombing of an industrial complex as a "decoding," a "conversion," and concludes that this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people dis- tracted.
Technique may be merely a paradigm that sees the world in terms of ma- chine processes, but it is a paradigm that we systematically apply. The way that we embrace technology in every aspect of society recalls Kuhn's statement that paradigm changes resemble religious conversions. There is often a fervour about technical man: Pynchon makes the association between technique and religion explicit by making religion itself a technique. In the words of Wimpe the narcotics salesman, "Religion was always about death.
It was used not as an opiate so much as a technique--it got people to die for one particular set of beliefs about death" History, read in terms of tech- nique, is a succession of more and more complex techniques of mass control.
In Wimpe's view, Marx exposed religion as the opiate of the masses only to unwittingly supply a new technique, a new set of beliefs for which to die, the "pre- destined shape" of history Pokier's colleagues find peace in their technological endeavours by invoking various kinds of "rocket mysticism.
These scientists hide the nature of their endea- vour, which is systematic death, by shrouding it in a. Another example of this rocket mys- ticism is the rendering of an engineering rule-of-thumb as a parable with Enzian playing the role of prophet. The para- ble summarizes the conflict between theory and practice, pure science and engineering with pure science being con-, demned as pride: It is Enzian himself who gives expres- sion to the consequences of elevating technology: Go ahead, capitalize the T on technology, deify it if i t ' l l make you feel less responsible--but it puts you in with the neutered, brother, in with the eunuchs keeping the harem of our stolen Earth for the numb and joyless hardons of human sultans, human elite with no right at all to be where they are One might wonder if technique is really as pervasive a power as this analysis makes it appear.
What of the more traditional forces of politics and economics? In reply it should be noted that politics and economics are not separate from technique, but are often, rather, expressions of tech- nique in different paradigms. Machiavelli sets out with one priority, the preservation of the state, and everything-- people, religion, virtue, the prince himself--is expendable in the pursuit of that goal.
The code of ethics put forward by Machiavelli, says George Bull, is "one which most men, even if they as often as not subscribe to it in practice, find repellent when it is justified in theory.
Enzian's epiphany casts doubt on the supremacy of politics; Ellul notes that political boundaries are becoming less meaningful in the technological society: European nations in general are being compelled to renounce political sovereignty and form associa- tions designed to realize far-reaching technical operations, as, for example, research projects in atomic energy , the exploitation of the Sahara , the launching of an artificial satellite Slothrop makes a connection at the dawn of paranoid consciousness: J'impe says elsewhere, "Connection?
But we don't talk about it" In the tradition of Orwellian Newspeak, if we have no name for something, it has no existence. Wimpe also tells Tchitcherine that "our little car- tel is the model for the very structure of nations" Ellul makes a similar point when he says: In- deed, it may be said in general that the state lags behind the great corporations in this respect and that it is compelled to modify and rationalize its administrative, judicial, and financial sys- tems on the model of the great commercial and in- dustrial enterprises.
To engage in political acti- vism without an awareness of this structuring force merely "allows the human being to exist in the technical milieu, but it is regression nonetheless, and a corollary to the general flight into unconsciousness" Ellul Political activity without consideration for technique merely gives the illusion of participating in the power structure.
The United States and the Soviet Union are at the leading edge of the technological revolution and, thus, it is in these two countries that technique is most dominant. Perhaps the most tel- ling clue to technique's grip on the United States is the case of the German rocket scientist, Achtfaden. Captured by the Schwarzkommando after trying to disappear in the Zone, Achtfaden explains his behaviour: The dehumanizing specialization described by Pokler does not end with the needs of the war but contin- ues.
Stanley Koteks complains that "every engineer, in signing the Yoyodyne contract, also signed away the patent rights to any inventions he might come up with" The engineer loses his individuality, becoming part of a "team" and taking neither responsibility nor credit for deeds com- mitted collectively.
Ellul refers to technique as a "conditioning" force xxix: Efforts have been made, most notably by B. Skinner, to consciously apply technique to the con- ditioning of human behaviour. He blamed our lack of understanding of human behaviour for our difficulties in adapting to an increasingly technological world. The an- swer, according to Skinner, is to apply technology itself to human behaviour: We could solve our problems quickly enough if we could adjust the growth of the world's population as pre- cisely as we adjust the course of a spaceship" 3.
Skinner claimed that, by manipulating our environment--the collec- tion of stimulae responsible for our behaviour--we could be conditioned to act in harmony with our changing and increa- singly technological world, and that mankind could no longer afford the luxuries of the freedom and the dignity of the individual: America's behaviourists are the heirs of Pavlov, and it is the Pavlovian, Pointsman, who demonstrates behaviour- ism in Gravity's Rainbow.
Slothrop, having already been victimized by the behavioural experiments of Dr. Causality would seem to be a tem- poral phenomenon--causes always being followed by effects. In order to explain the behaviour of Slothrop's penis in be- havioural terms, the response has to be put before the stim- ulus, effect before cause. Pointsman is unable or unwilling to consider possibilities outside of his Pavlovian paradigm and must qualify the paradigm ever more subtly in order to save i t in the face of an anomaly Slothrop.
Pointsman is forced into the Pavlovian theoretical contortions of "para- doxical" and "ultraparadoxical" phases in order to describe but not explain Slothrop in stimulus response terms There is no evidence of the mystery stimulus actu- ally existing, but Pointsman is incapable of considering al- ternative explanations because of his convictions.
Skinner too is unable to see, or unwilling to admit, the paradigma- tic status of his views. In Walden Two, the narrator, Professor Burris, declares that Frazier's behaviourist Utopia will be successful "if he can avoid committing him- self stubbornly to some theory" All we use is unbiased in- formation.
Behaviourism looks at the human mind as a physio- logical stimulus response mechanism: The brain is as linear as a flow chart, a binary decision process, and Pointsman cannot conceive of mental life in any other terms: He cannot, like Mexico, survive anyplace in between" William Barrett remarks, concer- ning behaviourism, that "to condition a human being, from the sheer determinist point of view, is logically similar to programming a computer" , and he suggests that "the dominant myth of our time may very well become that of Frankenstein's monster" The determinism of nine- teenth-century science can still be found in today's beha- vioural psychology, but it is no more convincing here than in thermodynamics, or Darwinian natural selection.
Beha- viourism assumes the human mind to be a closed system, that there is "a pure physiological basis for the life of the psyche," in the words, once more, of Pointsman Barrett rejects this assumption with a question: Any attempt to reduce the human mind to such a system is unlikely to meet with more than partial success.
Theoretical considerations aside, the question re- mains as to whether or not behavioural control can be con- sidered ethical. When Spectro questions the wisdom of ex- perimenting with Slothrop, he dismisses ethical considera- tions as irrelevant: Pudding, with perfect nine- teenth-century propriety, questions Pointsman on the sub- j ec t: Isn't it all rather shabby, Pointsman?
Meddling with another man's mind this way? Brigadier, we're only following in a long line of experiment and questioning. Harvard University, the U. Hardly shabby institutions. We can't, Pointsman, it's beastly. But the Americans have already been at him! It's not as if we're corrupting a virgin or something-- Pudding: Do we have to do it because the Americans do it?
Must we allow them to corrupt us? By embracing tech- nique, the behaviourist submits himself to the most rigorous of conditioning. Skinner's behaviourism is a concerted ef- fort to apply technique to human psychology, to smooth the transition to Technical Man, but the trend is already es- tablished: Technique tends to dominate us more and more without such engineering.
In Barrett's words, So long as we can negotiate the triumph of techno- logy successfully, we are unconcerned to ask what the presuppositions of this technical world are and how they bind us to its framework.
Already these presuppositions are so much the invisible medium of our actual life that we have become unconscious of them.
Ellul's analysis of the technological society leaves little room for hope or for creative alternatives. Nothing can compete with the technical means.
The choice is made a priori. It is not in the power of the individual or of the group to decide to follow some method other than the technical. In effect he has no freedom of choice. He finds no hope in art, as "modern art expresses the 'sub- conscious precisely to the degree that the subconscious has been influenced by the machine.
The artist is in fact a seismograph that records the fluctuations of man and soci- ety" He seems to view art as static rather than dyna- mic. Herbert Marcuse's vision is less bleak than Ellul's, but certainly as critical of the new technological order.
In One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse writes: The union of growing productivity and growing de- struction; the brinkmanship of annihilation; the surrender of thought, hope, and fear to the deci- sions of the powers that be; the preservation of misery in the face of unprecedented wealth con- stitute the most impartial indictment--even if they are not the raison d'etre of this society but only its by-product: The awareness of the limitations of rational thought, the medium of daily participation in the Reality Principle, induced by an awareness of another aspect of reality that is beyond rational explanation, is what Marcuse calls "two-dimension- al" thought Barrett makes a similar distinction be- tween the rational and the mystical: There is thus an irreconcilable but construc- tive antagonism between culture and social reality.
The effect of the new technology has been to "flat- ten out" this antagonism by two means. Firstly, "the reali- ty surpasses its culture. In the affluent society, technology is available to the masses and promises to become more so: Modern comforts create in the indi- vidual what Marcuse calls the "happy consciousness" 76 , and what pynchon calls "putting him on the Dream" Secondly, mass media assimilates culture by turning it into a commodity for mass consumption: If mass communications blend together harmonious- ly, and often unnoticeably, art, politics, reli- gion, and philosophy with commercials, they bring these realms of culture to their common denomina- tor--the commodity form.
Exchange value, not truth value counts. This may sound like Marxist sour grapes, but the point is simply this: Technological rationality becomes not just the dominant mode of thought, but the only one.. Culture becomes not an escape from control, but an aspect of it. Thought and existence become "one-dimension- al. Frazier, the Utopian beha- viourist, discusses the prerequisites for artistic produc- tion: You must be economically sound and so- cially acceptable, and prizes won't do that" In Skinner's projection, it is culture by which he means so- ciety as a whole that determines art, and there seems to be no role for art in influencing culture.
Art is a leisure ac- tivity for the purpose of enjoyment only. In Gravity's Rainbow, there is a distinction made between two kinds of art.
In a sixties-style discussion, abetted by hallucino- gens, Saure compares Rossini and Beethoven. Through the machineries of greed, pettiness, and the abuse of power, love occurs. All the shit is transmuted to gold. All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland. In the technological society, the artist must be more subversive to avoid co-option.
Jules Siegel recalls a conversation with Thomas pynchon in which Siegel complained of the difficulty pynchon's writing presented to the reader. Indeed, there is every reason why things should not be easy to understand. The general dif- ficulty of the novel is the "estrangement-effect" which Marcuse, after Bertholt Brecht, attributes to the "avant- garde" of literature.
What makes the novel subversive, or "Badass," is not the wealth of mundane detail, but the refusal to sup- ply the links between those details. The novel as a whole is a "We-system" that subverts all attempts at rational re- duction. The Death Instinct Entropy and technique may describe the tendencies of the technological society, but they do not explain why society tends that way. The psychoanalytic concept that deals with this question is the death instinct, and Pynchon demonstrates a familiarity with not only Freud's thoughts on the subject, but also with the re-readings of Freud propoun- ded by his popularizers in the s and s.
With the ad- vent of nuclear weapons, and defence strategies such as MAD Mutual Assured Destruction , annihilation became a very real possibility, and it is not surprising that death became the subject of a number of polemics.
Herbert Marcuse and Norman O. Brown wrote such polemics, becoming popular philo- sophers, and casting spells over large audiences with lively and sometimes fanciful arguments. These writers possess an optimism of a quality not unlike that of the eighteenth-cen- tury variety professed by Alexander Pope and Voltaire's Dr.
Brown writes, in Life Against Death, "Utopian speculations.
They are a way of affirming faith in the possibility of solving problems that seem at the moment insoluble. Today even the survival of humanity is a utopian hope" Eighteenth-century man could look about, see incredible suffering, and yet proclaim: Know thy own point: Pope, Essay on Man I, Submission to Heaven was also submission to societal norms and eighteenth-century optimism was, thus, in essence an apologia for the status quo, presen- ting you with a God'who loved abundance and vari- ety better than happiness or progress, and a uni- verse whose "goodness" consisted in its containing the greatest possible range of phenomena, many of which seem evil to all but the philosophers.
Willey 48 Marcuse and Brown see the impending annihilation of mankind and offer extravagant arguments for hope. Their counter- cultural optimism emphasizes the destructive nature of the status quo and the arbitrariness of "given" reality. Frederick Crews is justified in his criti- cism of Brown when he says that "psychoanalysis for Brown is not science but poetical philosophy" To put the matter'another way, the IIpoetryll in Freud's thought cannot be purged away. Life Against Death It has been said that when Freud wrote of the human psyche, his paradigm was the steam engine Campbell Brown and Marcuse de-emphasize the mechanistic nature of Freud's thought while putting greater stress on its intuitional, poetic quality.
The form of these works, which is nominally expository and empirical Brown , or dialectical Marcuse , may mislead the reader into believing that some scientific truth has been reached, but, as Crews remarks of Brown, IIhe never once deviates into petty considerations of evidence ll Brown seems to have anticipated this criticism when writing Love's Body, the sequel to Life Aganst Death. The second book is aphoristic and disconnected in the extreme.
Here is a sentence, chosen at random: IIWe dwell in Night, the dungeonlike heaven the lid of our cof- fin; like the vaulted chamber in which the dead Egyptian kings lay, a representation of the heavens as a firmament, or lid ll Statements of this nature appear throughout the text in total contextual isolation without the benefit of transitional logic.
The form of Love's Body may be more faithful to its subject matter, but the book is not nearly as fascinating an intellectual adventure as the ear- lier Life Against Death or Marcuse's Eros and Civili- zation. His method is one of corres- pondence rather than of logical transitions and theoretical consistency. The death instinct is imbedded in Gravity's Rainbow to such an extent that it can be said to be the novel's central idea: Entropy is the direction of travel, technique the most efficient means of travel, and the death instinct the motivation for going.
The novel brings together trends observed, over the last one and a half centuries, in numerous fields of pure and social science. It may be a "fact," as John Gardner says, that "the world is not as Pynchon says it is" , and yet the wide applicability of the entropy paradigm allows Pynchon to construct a web of correspondences that goes beyond mere factuality. There is a passage in Gravity's Rainbow that serves to illustrate the relation of empirical evidence to truth that functions in the novel.
Jeffrey Masson, The Assault on Truth, Freud later changed his mind concerning the factuality of his patients' accounts, but, although the rapes may have been fantasy rather than reali- ty, their clinical value remained the same for Freud. When Pointsman discovers that there appears to be no one-to-one correspondence between the stars on Slothrop's map and the women the stars are supposed to represent, he has to do some fast talking: And what if many--even if most--of the Slothropian stars are proved, some distant day, to refer to sexual fantasies instead of real events?
This would hardly invalidate our ap- proach, any more than i t did young Sigmund Freud's, back there in old Vienna, facing a simi- lar violation of probability--all those Papi-has- raped-me stories, which might have been lies evi- dentially, but were certainly the truth clini- cally.
Pointsman is undermined in his attempt to find a causal, physiological basis for behaviour by his appeal to a non-physiological authority, and at the same time it is suggested that truth is not reached solely through empirical evidence. Brian McHale makes a similar point in rebuttal of John Gardner's criticism: Because death is such an integral part of the novel, i t will be useful to summarize some of the theory to which pynchon is indebted or allied.
Freud believed that "what decides the purpose of life is simply the programme of the pleasure principle" CD , that the goal of the individual is to achieve and maintain happiness. However, as a civilized animal, the individual must make concessions to the society: Thus there is a basic conflict between the individual and the society and "what we call our civilization is largely responsible for our misery" CD Pointsman claims scientific objectivity, but i t is hard to miss the moralizing tone in his voice as he searches for a causal link: Of course, there are many benefits gained by the individual in exchange for submis- sion, but, notes Freud, the subjugation of the forces of nature, which is the fulfillment of a longing that goes back thou- sands of years, has not increased the amount of pleasurable satisfaction which they may expect from life and has not made them feel happier.
CD Freud is joined by Ellul in stressing that the majority of ameliorations that society has brought to the individual have been necessitated by the previous gifts of society: Every successive technique has appeared because the ones which preceded it rendered necessary the ones which followed.
Otherwise they would have been inefficacious and would not have been able to deliver their maximum yield. Freud calls our enjoyment of technological advances "cheap" and compares it to that "obtained by putting a bare leg from under the bedclothes on a cold winter night and drawing it in again" CD The individual con- tinues to be thwarted in the pursuit of happiness dictated by the Pleasure Principle, and the benefits of the techno- logical society may in fact be largely illusory.
For Freud, the primal situation at the root of civi- lization was the rebellion of the sons against the arbitrary rule of the despotic patriarch: Thus far there is no conflict in the soci- ety; it is bound together by the complementary principles of Eros love and Ananke the necessity of unity and hierarchy in the interest of maintaining the autonomy of the group However, such an arrangement necessarily involves the dynamics of dominance and submission--in a word, aggression.
Dominance is sustained by the act or threat of aggression. If love and necessity were the only dynamics at work in the primal situation posited by Freud, there would have been no need to overthrow the father in the first place.
Freud con- cluded from his observations of individual patients and the world in general, with apparent resignation, that "it is clearly not easy for men to give up the satisfaction of this inclination to aggression. If the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, the price of dominance is eternal aggression.
Pynchon exemplifies the omnipresence of this conflict in a peculiar passage of Gravity's Rainbow in which a teen- aged Slothrop is transported to a futuristic "factory-state" where he experiences relentless aggression: Unexpectedly, this country is pleasant, yes, once inside it, quite pleasant after all. Even though there is a villain here, serious as death.
It is this typical American teenager's own Father, trying episode after episode to kill his son. And the kid knows it. Imagine that. So far he's managed to escape his father's daily little death- plots--but nobody has said he has to keep es- caping.
In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. In- terestingly, there is no indication that the aggression is reciprocated, but rather merely submitted to.
If death is regarded as the ultimate submission cf. Wimpe's analysis of control: There is a definite. Freud posited that, at the origin of life, a "tension" occurred "in what had hitherto been an inanimate substance endeavour[ing] to cancel itself out" BPP Freud maintained consistently throughout his writings the identity of this "tension" with the individual's urge to self-destruction or the death instinct--the desire "to do away with life once more and to reestablish the inorganic state" New Introductory Lectures Freud's words give new importance to Laszlo Jamf's spring lecture: Here is no fraf.
Science is represented as aggressive, as discarding life in favour of the inorganic, as embracing death. Freud goes on to indict all of us for "living psychologically beyond our means" 89 , in that our attitudes towards death repress its inevi- tability. Brown expands on Freud's ideas, declaring that "the repressed death instinct cannot affirm life by affirming death; life, being repressed, cannot affirm death and there- fore must fly from death" Life Against Death [LAD] Brown follows Freud with the assertion that: In Brown's view, the very structure of society, with its supporting religions and his- tories, ensures that the death instinct on the individual level is repressed.
In contrast, Freud wrote, in Civili- zation and Its Discontents, that "civilization is a pro- cess in the service of Eros, whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of mankind" The tendency of the death instinct is exactly opposite to that of Eros: As Brown expresses it: The principle of unification or interdependence sustains the immortal life of the species and the mortal life of the individual; the principle of separation or independence gives the indivi- dual his individuality and ensures his death.
LAD Thus the importance for society of the repression of the death instinct: But, "if death gives life individuality and if man is the organism which represses death, then man is the organism which represses his own individuality" LAD It is evident that war is bound to sweep away [the] conventional treatment of death.
Death will no longer be denied; we are forced to believe in it. Life has, indeed, become interesting again; i t has recovered its full content. Of these, Roger Mexico is the most striking illustration of the death instinct's impact on the individual's quality of life.
When Roger meets Jessica, she calls him a "little boy" and asks "Does your mother know you're out like this? Roger's physical and emotional immaturity are emphasized by his.
As the narrator says, And the war, well she is Roger's mother, she's leached at all the soft, the vulnerable in- clusions of hope and praise scattered, beneath the mica-dazzle, through Roger's mineral, grave-marker self, washed it all moaning away on her gray tide.
Six years now, always just in sight, just where he can see her. He's forgotten his first corpse, or when he first saw someone living die. That's how long it's been going on. Most of his life, it seems. How- ever, if the war is Roger's mother, he has somewhat of an Oedipal fascination with it.
It is only while the rockets are falling that he and Jessica can enjoy their extremely physical love They have used the continuous con- sciousness of death to enhance their ability to live: It is significant, I think, that when Roger loses Jessica, he strikes out not specifically at her or at her fiance, Beaver, but at the status quo in general as represented by the rich guests at a dinner party ff.
It becomes steadily apparent that Slothrop is connected to Laszlo Jamf through Lyle Bland, a Slothrop family friend who apparently played a role in funding Jamf's experiments on the infant Slothrop. Slothrop later returns to the Anubis to find Bianca dead, a possible trigger for his impending decline.
He continues his pilgrimage through northern Germany, at various stages donning the identities of a German actor, a Russian soldier, and mythical Pig Hero, while in search of more information on his childhood and the He is repeatedly sidetracked until his persona fragments totally in part four, despite the efforts of some to save him.
Throughout "The Counterforce", there are several brief, hallucinatory stories, of superheroes, silly Kamikaze pilots, and immortal sentient lightbulbs. These are presumed to be the product of Slothrop's finally collapsed mind. The final identification of him of any certainty is his picture on the cover of an album by obscure English band "The Fool" another allusion to Tarot, which becomes increasingly significant , where he is credited as playing the harmonica and kazoo.
At the same time, other characters' narratives begin to collapse as well, with some characters taking a bizarre trip within a shared dream and another encountering the god Pan. Much of Part Four takes place within the presumably hallucinated "Raketen-Stadt", a fascist futuristic dystopia. Slothrop's storyline disintegrates before the novel's end, which focuses more on the , and the people associated with its construction and launch namely Blicero, Enzian, and Gottfried, amongst others.
At this point, the novel also concludes many characters' stories, including those of Mexico, Pointsman, and Pirate, leaving only the As the novel closes, many topics are discussed by the various protagonists around the world, ranging from Tarot cards to Death itself. The narrative jumps forward in time to the s, where a character named "Richard M.
Zhlubb" operates a Los Angeles theater. The story of the 's launch is largely told in flashbacks by the narrator, while in the present Enzian is constructing and preparing its successor, the which isn't fired within the scope of the novel , though it is unknown who is intended to be sacrificed in this model.
In the flashbacks, the maniacal Captain Blicero prepares to assemble and fire the , and asks Gottfried to sacrifice himself inside the rocket. The text halts, in the middle of a song composed by Slothrop's ancestor, with a complete obliteration of narrative as the lands or is about to land on a cinema. Many facts in the novel are based on technical documents relating to the V-2 rockets. Equations featured in the text are correct.
References to the works of Pavlov , Ouspensky , and Jung are based on Pynchon's research. The firing command sequence in German that is recited at the end of the novel is also correct and is probably copied verbatim from the technical report produced by Operation Backfire. The secret military organizations practicing occult warfare have an historical backdrop in the Ahnenerbe and other Nazi mysticism , whereas the Allied counterparts were limited to certain individuals such as Louis de Wohl 's work for MI5.
Additionally, the novel uses many actual events and locations as backdrops to establish chronological order and setting within the complex structure of the book. Examples include the appearance of a photograph of Wernher von Braun in which his arm is in a cast. Historical documents indicate the time and place of an accident which broke von Braun's arm, thereby providing crucial structural details around which the reader can reconstruct Slothrop's journey. Another example is the inclusion of a BBC Radio broadcast of a Benny Goodman performance, the contents of which, according to historical record, were broadcast only once during the period of the novel and by which the events immediately surrounding its mention are fixed.
Poet L. Thus his remarkably supple diction can first treat of a painful and delicate love scene and then roar, without pause, into the sounds and echoes of a drudged and drunken orgy. The plot of the novel is complex, containing over characters and involving many different threads of narrative which intersect and weave around one another.
Gravity's Rainbow also draws heavily on themes that Pynchon had probably encountered at his work as a technical writer for Boeing , where he edited a support newsletter for the Bomarc Missile Program support unit.
The Boeing archives are known to house a vast library of historical V-2 rocket documents, which were probably accessible to Pynchon. The novel is narrated by many distinct voices, a technique further developed in Pynchon's much later novel Against the Day. The style and tone of the voices vary widely: Some narrate the plot in a highly informal tone, some are more self-referential, and some might even break the fourth wall. Some voices narrate in drastically different formats, ranging from movie-script format to stream of consciousness prose.
The narrative contains numerous descriptions of illicit sexual encounters and drug use by the main characters and supporting cast, sandwiched between dense dialogues or reveries on historic, artistic, scientific, or philosophical subjects, interspersed with whimsical nonsense-poems and allusions to obscure facets of s pop culture.
Many of the recurring themes will be familiar to experienced Pynchon readers, including the singing of silly songs, recurring appearances of kazoos, and extensive discussion of paranoia. According to Richard Locke, megalomaniac paranoia is the "operative emotion" behind the novel,  and an increasingly central motivator for the many main characters. The novel becomes increasingly preoccupied with themes of Tarot, Paranoia, and Sacrifice.
All three themes culminate in the novel's ending, and the epilogue of the many characters. The novel also features the character Pig Bodine , of Pynchon's novel V. Bodine would later become a recurring avatar of Pynchon's complex and interconnected fictional universe, making an appearance in nearly all of Pynchon's novels thereafter.
The novel also shares many themes with Pynchon's much later work, Against the Day , which becomes increasingly dark as the plot approaches World War I. Gravity's Rainbow takes these sentiments to their extreme in its highly pessimistic culmination of World War II.
The novel is regarded by many scholars as the greatest American novel published after the end of the Second World War,  and is "often considered as the postmodern novel , redefining both postmodernism and the novel in general". Though the book won the National Book Award for ,  Pynchon chose neither to accept nor acknowledge this award.
Thomas Guinzberg of the Viking Press suggested that the comedian "Professor" Irwin Corey accept the award on his behalf. Pynchon agreed, which led to one of the most unusual acceptance speeches of all time,  complete with a streaker crossing the stage in the middle of Corey's musings.
Gravity's Rainbow was translated into German by Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek , and some critics think that it has had a large influence on Jelinek's own writing.
Some unfinished footage is included in Bramkamp's film. The film Impolex by Alex Ross Perry is loosely inspired by Gravity's Rainbow , the title referring to the fictional polymer Imipolex G used to condition Slothrop in the novel. The lyrics were written by me as an imitation of Thomas Pynchon's parodies in his book Gravity's Rainbow.
He had parodied limericks and poems of kind of all-American, obsessive, cult of personality ideas like Horatio Alger and 'You're 1, there's nobody else like you' kind of poems that were very funny and very clever. The novel inspired the song "Gravity's Angel" by Laurie Anderson. In her autobiographical performance The End of the Moon , Anderson said she once contacted Pynchon asking permission to adapt Gravity's Rainbow as an opera. Pynchon replied that he would allow her to do so only if the opera was written for a single instrument: Anderson said she took that as a polite "no.
The use of the texts was cleared with Pynchon's agent. American progressive rock group Coheed and Cambria 's song "Gravity's Union", from their science fiction concept album The Afterman: Descension , is named in honor of the novel.
Canadian experimental rock group Rei dos Leitoes's song "Silent on the Island" incorporates themes from Gravity's Rainbow in its second and fourth Verse passages.
David Lowery of the American alternative rock group Camper Van Beethoven 's cites Gravity's Rainbow as an inspiration for the song "All her favorite fruit". The piece includes palm trees, shoes, stuffed toys, a lemon meringue pie, Richard Nixon, Sigmund Freud , an iron toad wired to an electric battery, a dominatrix , and other images from the novel.
The series had a successful reception at New York's Whitney Biennial event, and was described "as a tour de force of sketching and concept" Abbe From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
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A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel. University of Georgia Press.