Randy Lenz

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Randy Lenz is an Ennet House resident who has no respect for Ennet House rules, supervisors, or residents. Lenz abuses animals and kills a dog and eventually uses Don Gately as a human shield. Lenz is one of the residents whose purpose, as Gately puts it, “is teaching them valuable patience and tolerance” (539). Infinite Jest, however, may give Randy Lenz more credit than that. In spite of Lenz's criminal acts, at one point, the novel provides a glimpse of Lenz as a considerate and giving human being. That point occurs when Lenz ruminates over his friendship with his fellow resident Bruce Green. That point stands as Lenz’s moment of redemption in Infinite Jest.

Randy Lenz becomes redeemed by his ability to give to the reader: through his keen recognition and meticulous explanation, Lenz gives the reader an understanding of the difficulties and intricacies in communicating honestly to another person. Lenz digs into the problem and parses the reasons behind the difficulty. Through his parsing of the problem—enriched with such detail, attention, care, and delicacy—Lenz gives the reader a deeper understanding of the dread, the subtleties, and his ultimate answer to why “you don’t come right out there and let somebody hear you say you think they’re OK” (Wallace 554). By embedding signs that indicate the difficulty of communicating, such as “But like for instance” and “some awful like voltage of energy” and “Where do you look with your eyes” (“with your eyes” is a redundancy), Wallace conveys not only the difficulty of human conversation but also the struggle Lenz goes through to communicate this difficulty and his understanding of it to the reader. Like his willingness to give up his autonomy for the sake of liking Green, Lenz struggles with language and stumbles across words—not for himself, but for the sake of communicating and giving this awareness and understanding to the reader.

These sentences, few but powerful, capture Lenz’s redemptive moment in the story. Although Lenz’s later acts overshadow the internal conflict and thoughtfulness entrenched in these sentences, this fleeting but poignant moment nonetheless stands as a redemptive one, as one remembered by its gift to the reader: an understanding of the difficulty of communicating openly, candidly, and sincerely a message that ultimately leaves the communicator vulnerable, naked, powerless. Lenz’s redemption, though minor and momentary, resonates deep—because his redemption actually affects other people. Yet buried beneath the triumph of his fleeting redemption, lies the tragic undertones of the personal inability, social unacceptability, and plain difficulty of telling the truth in a straightforward way.