Dialectics

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I've been noticing that Pynchon has been increasingly using the term "dialectics" throughout Gravity's Rainbow. The OED online dictionary has these definitions to offer:

a. The art of critical examination into the truth of an opinion; the investigation of truth by discussion: in earlier English use, a synonym of LOGIC as applied to formal rhetorical reasoning; logical argumentation or disputation.

As I learned this concept, it had to do with the pendulum like motion between two extreme points, and where these ideas merge, something along the lines of OED's second definition:

In modern Philosophy: Specifically applied by Kant to the criticism which shows the mutually contradictory character of the principles of science, when they are employed to determine objects beyond the limits of experience (i.e. the soul, the world, God); by Hegel (who denies that such contradictions are ultimately irreconcilable) the term is applied (a) to the process of thought by which such contradictions are seen to merge themselves in a higher truth that comprehends them; and (b) to the world-process, which, being in his view but the thought-process on its objective side, develops similarly by a continuous unification of opposites.

Portraying WWII

I find it interesting how Pynchon portrays World War II. The common view would be that WWII was one of the most coherent wars, evil versus good, plain and simple. (I don't really believe that, as a disclaimer). WWI, on the other hand, was murky and ridiculous and insane--rather like the Vietnam War. By focusing on the end of WWII, Pynchon manages to make it seem as stupid as Vietnam. The characters don't seem to know why they are there, and do not seem to feel any real emotion in regards to winning or losing. In fact, it seems like most of the characters don't really talk much about Hitler, or the Nazis--it's not the issue. The rocket is the issue. Now, if one views the book as something about the Cold War then this makes sense--to look at it as a WWII novel doesn't seem right. Ultimately it's not about WWII at all--only in setting.

Losing Gravity

"Ah, they do bother him, these free women in their teens, their spirits are so contagious" and to the side of a 'song', the sidenote "Where did the swing band come from? She's bouncing up and down, she wants to be jitterbugged, he sees she wants to (italics) lose her gravity (end italics)" from page 547 (ya, I still don't know how to do italics...)

This seems to imply that teen women are spirited, and by the dance theme, happy. Teens may be the children of the war, seeing as we haven't actually been introduced to any children who didn't behave like teenagers if not adults. Even Bianca and Ilse, as far as I know the youngest characters, hardly have any child-like attributes. This would mean that teens are the most innocent of all the characters, which as we've talked about is not the case. A teen is also an age between child and adult, between a 0 and a 1.

Question

Can anybody tell me what's going on in the section beginning with all the desserts in the "very extensive museum"(page 546) and ending with Katje and Pirate talking about loving people (page 558)....where are they and how did they get there? I'm really confused and I thought it might come up in class today and someone would mention it, but it didn't and I'm still lost.

past life

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"He used to pick and shovel at the spring roads of Berkshire, April afternoons he's lost, "Chapter 81 work," they called it, following the scraper that clears the winter's crystal attack-from-within, its white necropolizing...picking up rusted beer cans, rubbers yellow with preterite seed, Kleenex wadded to brain shapes hiding preterite snot, preterite tears, newspapers, broken glass, pieces of automobile, days when in superstition and fright he could make it all fit...and now in the Zone, later in the day he became a crossroad, after a heavy rain he doesn't recall, Slothrop sees a very thick rainbow here, a stout rainbow cock driven down out of pubic clouds into Earth, green wet valleyed Earth, and his chest fills and he stands crying, not a thing in his head, just feeling natural..." (638).

"This Ain't The Fuckin' Movies Now"

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I liked the part that starts on page 536, in which for a paragraph or two, the narrative is in the form of a film. Slothrop says "Springer, this ain't the fucking'movies now," to which Springer prophetically replies: "Not yet. Maybe not quite yet. You'd better enjoy it while you can. Someday, when the film is fast enough, the equipment pocket-size and burdenless and selling at peoples prices, the lights and booms no longer necessary, then...then..." At this point, the novel is starting to look towards the future; here is talk of the future of movies. Enzian is looking to the future of the Zone Hereros and his vision of a text, and a search that will require more Zone Hereros, not less.

Opposites

I've been noticing a lot about opposites in the book and I think it's interesting how it often relates to male and female itneractions.
On page 409,
"...he [Mondaugen] seemed to look at fuel and oxidizer as paired opposites, male and female principles uniting in the mystical egg of the combustion chamber: creation and destruction, fire and water, chemical plus and chemical minus--."
"Valency," Pokler protested, "a condition of the outer shells, that's all."

Then on page 572 Andreas explains the importance of the mandala to Slothrop. It's a long paragraph so I won't type it all out, but basically there are two types of the letters on the mandala, male and female letters representing different directions. This came from the way that in their tribal villages, women and men lived on opposite sides of the village. The female letters represent fertilization, birth, breath, and soul, while the male letter represent activities, fire, preparation, and building, It says, "Each opposite pair of vanes worked together, and amoved in opposite senses. Opposites together."

Mushy stuff

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I've noticed Slothrop undergoing some interesting character changes as we've continued. (Note: I'm not referring to the reading for today, which I haven't yet begun. Go go speed reading!) When we first meet him, he doesn't really seem emotionally connected to anyone; though he definitely has his share of human interactions, they don't seem to mean anything to him.

That starts changing when he gets to the Riviera, specifically once people start leaving him. He pines after Katje, and his anger over Tantivy's death drives him out of France. He starts to realize this change when he says goodbye to Geli: "It is taking him longer, the longer he's in the Zone, to remember to say aw quit being a sap. What is this place doing to his brain?" (338) He sticks with Margherita, despite being frightened by her obvious batshit insanity, and gets immediately and deeply attached to Bianca.

Following the Lemming

The passage that starts on 564 concerning the lemming named Ursula is very interesting. It bring up several of the motifs we've explored in previous posts- suicide, being "passed over", etc.

"One lemming, kid?"
"I've had her for two years," he sobs, "she's been fine, she's never tried to-- I dont know. Somthing just came over her."
"Quit fooling. Lemmings never do anything alone. They need a crowd. Its gets contagious. You see, Ludwig, they overbreed, it goes in cycles, when ther are too many of them they panic and run off looking for food."

Slothrop finds it very hard to believe that Ludwig's lemmming would be the single lemming to survive the famously cliched mass-suicide of the lemmings.

beyond the zero

This was originally a comment on rose's entry, but it got pretty lengthy, so I decided to go ahead and make it an entry of its own.

The idea of going "beyond the zero" (the title of the first part), seems to be a major theme, but I don't fully understand what this is supposed to mean. I realize that we've talked about this, but since I still don't feel like I really grasp the concept, I decided to list some of the most important zero references that we have come across so far, with the help of the website roses linked.

The book opens with Pirate's dream: "No, this is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into--they go under archways...developing through those empty days brilliant and deep, especially at dawn, with blue shadows to seal its passage, to try to bring events to Absolute Zero..."

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