Consumption in Infinite Jest

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During a period of painful introspection, Hal thinks of “the incredible volume of food I was going to have to consume over the rest of my life.” (Infinite Jest 897). He also thinks about a room filling with the meat and excrement his will eat and produce. He sees his life as a continuous cycle of in and out. (His growing distaste for devouring other creature’s flesh ties to Consider the Lobster.) (He’s also suffering the loss of appetite occurring with marijuana withdrawal). For him, food seems perhaps like a pointless consumption (temporary satiation: that is, you eat and need more food and so eat again and then later again), or maybe it is the necessity of the consumption (the reliance on the food to live) that bother’s Hal. The latter means a reliance on something outward in order to survive (sustenance).

In the consumption of drugs, the need continues even when it becomes unpleasant. This is illustrated in Joelle’s “the predicament that she didn’t love it anymore she hated it and wanted to stop and also couldn’t stop and also couldn’t stop or imagine stopping or living life without it” (221). Here, the substance has become something essential to life, and the only answer is continued consumption.


Consumption is very frequent among Wallace's Themes, and is prominent in Big Red Son, E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction, The Broom of the System, Girl with Curious Hair, and more.