I was struck by a passage as I was reading today. In it, Slothrop, Otto, Narrisch and Springer are walking along and the townspeople begin to crowd them, begging, when Springer pulls a gun.

"They're hungrier today," observes Narrisch.
"True," replies Springer, "but today there are fewer of them."
"Wow," it occurs to Slothrop, "thats a shitty thing to say". (503)

This is the first time in the book so far that I remember any issue of right or wrong in a society or real judgement/morality has been expressed by a character, or at least by Slothrop. Part of what makes the book somewhat interesting to me is its complete amorality to this point. It also makes the explicit sex much easier to stomach, as it occurs in a vaccuum, with only the valences that I/readers bring to the text.

Did anyone else notice this? Is it just me? I guess I'll have to wait and see if this signals a change in tone in the book...

I agree- this completely jumped out at me as I read it. I too noticed this to be the first time that Slothrop seems to have any kind of moral judgement. I thought it was interesting that it trailed so close on the heels of his "relationship" with the under-age Bianca--clearly not a moral affair at all. I'm hoping that it signals a tone change, but with Pynchon, you can't ever be sure. Plus, it seems a little late in the novel to completely change a character--especially one as major as Slothrop--completely around and suddenly make him have a sense of moral judgement when he didn't seem to have one at all before. But crazier things have happened in the novel, I suppose.

This book hadn't yet depicted any particular character distraught by questions of right or wrong and morality, which seems strange for a book that is written in the stream-of-consciousness style. The readers are left to ponder what they think is just, while the characters are up to their own devices. It IS strange that Pynchon would add this in so late in the book and we are left to wonder what OTHER changes in the characters' moral judgements may occur.

I've thought about this (since we talked about this passage in class as well), and while I'm still pretty reluctant to imagine Slothrop has developed a guilty conscience at this point, perhaps he has some insight on his own imorality and apathy. He seems surprised at the injustice here, but not particularly concerned about changing it (I doubt he's going to start a hunger campaign in the next section). I think Slothrop has always been distantly aware of the injustice in the world outside of his own paranoid self-interest and pursuit of personal pleasure, but this might be a moment that he thinks outside his own bubble. In the end, however, I get the feeling that a handful of these characters feel that being programmed/psychologically trained/victims of government surveillance gives them a free pass when it comes to being a humanitarian, and that they have a right to be pretty much focused on saving their own asses. They all fail horribly at being moral (for example, any paternal sentiments also involve feelings of pedophilia and incest with Slothrop/Bianca and Pokler/Isle) It seems almost impossible to be a good and moral human being in this novel.