Morality/Judgement

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.

Pokler and Lot's Wife- Biblical Allusions

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I found this biblical allusion and following commentary very interesting and am going to attempt to venture an idea about it. If anybody would like to add, correct, or completely disagree with my musings, I would appreciate it!

On page 411, "Pokler, billeted at a fisherman's cottage, came in from his evening walks behind a fine mask of salt. Lot's wife. What disaster had he dared to look back on? He knew." This passage is alluding to the God's decimation of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament. Both cities were practicing various acts of sodomy and this enraged God. Therefore, he let Lot and his family (for they weren't part of the sodoming majority) flee from the land before he destroyed it.

Humor

"It is difficult to perceive just what the fuck is happening here" (512). I laughed when I read this--it seems to sum up my thoughts about the novel in general pretty well.

I thought the differences in tone between the two scenes when Slothrop falls into the water were really interesting. The first time, Pynchon writes that "Slothrop dithers, goes to follow her--at the last moment some joker pulls the ladder up and the boat moves away, Slothrop screams, loses his balance and falls into the river"(467). This scene (although I'm sure not amusing for Slothrop) struck me as really humorous for some reason. Maybe it's Pynchon's use of the word "joker," or maybe it's the manner in which he fell, but I saw a decisive tone of amusement throughout that passage.

I'll write something positive!

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There is a certain paragraph that caught my fancy on page 460.

"You come in--just hit town, here in the heart of downtown Peenemunde, hey, whatcha do for fun around here? hauling your provincial valise with a few shirts, a copy of the Handbuch, perhaps Cranz's Lehrbuch der Ballistik. You have memorized Ackeret...some Volta Congress papers. But the terror will not go away. This is faster than sound, than the words she spoke across the room so full of sunlight, the jazz band on the radio when you could not sleep, the hoarse Heils among the pale generators and from the executive-crammed galleries overhead..." (there's more good stuff but I'm not typing it all up)

Children and Innocence

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I've still got some reading to go, but I'm starting to notice a lot of focus on children in this section, and so I thought I'd jot down my thoughts on the darker side of innocense and youth.

It's interesting that the novel describes innocence as a valuable resource that a state can package/preserve/manufacture: "In a corporate State, a place must be made for innocence, and its many uses. In developing an official version of innocence, the culture of childhood has proven invaluable." (419 in my book).. then it goes on to describe "Zwolfkinder", the eerie resort that's run completely by children. And while this place is supposed to be the ideal fairyland, it clearly has a cryptic side (easily visible in the not-so-innocent children). Polker takes his daughter Ilse there, but she is clearly irreparably damaged by her stay in the Dora camp. And the boys she looks at in Zwolfkinder ignore her, because "They dreamed of their orders, of colossal explosions and death [...] someday I will have a herd of [women] for myself... but first I must find my captain... somewhere out in the War... first they must deliver me from this little place..." (429). These boys have already outgrown the make-believe world of childhood, and are preparing themselves for a life of violence and sex. It seems as if innocence is just a guise that children wear.

How I learned to stop worrying and love my constructed selfhood

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I did, at some point. You did too. And so did Slothrop. We've all come to internalize the myths, stories, ideologies, etc., that define "who we are." For instance, we no longer need to be told what it means to "be a man" or "be a woman" - long ago we all appropriate some sense of what these categories mean, and we all perform those meanings day to day, moment to moment (even if we reject both categories, that is in itself a kind of performance). Following a thread of discussion from Wednesday's class, the first group brought up the passage on 338 when Slothrop is leaving Geli: "Slothrop feels his heart, out of control, inflate with love and rise quick as a balloon.

Shit, Freud and Control...

As I was walking back to the dorms just now, I was thinking more about the passage the final group presented on page 291, in which Slothrop figures out he was sold as a child to IG:

"He knows what the smell has to be: though according to these papers it would have been too early for it..."

I was reminded that Freud's stages of child development include an anal phase, immediately following the oral phase we experience during infancy. The theory is that during the oral phase, we seek out our mother's breasts, and explore with our mouths for love and approval. We then progress to the anal phase, which is about CONTROL- we learn to control (or not) our bowels and exert some authority via our ability to shit.

language and culture

When Tchitcherine goes to the Kazakh village to record the aqyn's song, he hears an ajtys: a singing duel. Tchitcherine of course thinks of it in terms of language and the alphabet that he works for. (by the way, what is the letter under which he works?) On page 362 he "understands, abrubtly, that soon someone will come out and begin to write some of these down in the New Turkish Alphabet he helped frame...and this is how they will be lost." He comes to the realization that the voices of the boy and the girl in the singing duel, a Kazakh tradition, will fade out as other cultures try to compartmentalize and even preserve the old ways through a new alphabet.

The act of Naming

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On page 372 as Slothrop becomes Rocketman, Pynchon writes that "names by themselves may be empty, but the act of naming..." (372). Pynchon doesn't exactly finish the thought yet if we infer him to mean that the act of naming is very significant (meaningful, whatever you'd like to call it) it raises a lot of questions about Slothrop's name and his identity. In part three we see him as Ian Scuffling, Rocketman, Max Schlepzig, and Plechazunga. Yet in the ones we have seen thus far in the reading (as of pg. 400 we have only gotten as far as Rocketman) there never seems to be much story behind the name changes.

011000100110100101101110011000010111001001111001

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As I've been reading, I've been noticing more and more references to zeroes and ones. It seems like everything comes back to these two numbers. I'm not really sure what to make of it. Is it a science thing? After all, the most complex of computer programs boil down to machine code, which is written in binary. Perhaps it's more than that. I don't really have anything analytical on my own to say, I guess, but I wanted to point that out.

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