Analysis Of Thomas Pynchon And Gravity's Rainbow

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Thomas Pynchon is like Bigfoot, and Gravity’s Rainbow is like one of those rare photographs taken by fanatics. He rarely makes public appearances. There are only a few photos of him, mostly taken as a student at Cornell. Despite this, though, he is considered one of the greatest writers of the last few decades. The novel that cemented his place in the pantheon of American Literature was Gravity’s Rainbow. The story of the novel connects to the fears and passions of his contemporaries. Taking place in post-WW2 Europe (mostly Germany), the novel still manages to tell a universal story about war and its aftermath, and it does not balk at the dirty details of these subjects either. In 1974, the novel was selected to win a Pulitzer Prize, but was…show more content…
Questions of concepts native to Physics became intimate areas of creativity for Pynchon. A variety of such concepts show up in all Pynchon novels, but Gravity’s Rainbow is positively saturated in them. Engineering Physics is ubiquitous throughout the novel. Brian Stonehill, in an excerpt from his study, Artifice in Fiction, concludes that Pynchon’s use of scientific terminology is an integral ingredient in Gravity’s Rainbow (437). He’s right, since even the novel’s title, Gravity’s Rainbow, refers to the arc of a propelled object, including the famous rocket, around which the novel is based. Pynchon likely learned such things from his education in EP. This concept is in addition to other concepts important to the novel, including the Poisson distribution and Entropy. Entropy is such a common theme in Pynchon novels that Brian Stonehill has given it center stage in the story, as both a theme of the novel and an actual phenomenon (438). Pynchon likely studied these ideas in his Engineering Physics courses, but he doesn’t just appropriate Physics terms. Biology also comes into play in the novel, as Christine Turier says, “Spectro’s [a character in the novel] summary of the advantages of octopi as test subjects is in fact extremely accurate”…show more content…
In many ways though, it was not a happy birth. In their article on Gravity’s Rainbow and Thomas Pynchon, Novels for Students suggests that Pynchon is involved in a thorough critique of post-WW2 society for its moral and emotional failings (“Thomas” 53). Most sources seem to agree on the role of Pynchon’s opinions in his novel. Scott Trudell, in an essay on the role of sexuality in Gravity’s Rainbow explains that “an alternative example of Pynchon’s suggestion that the death drive is a cultural phenomenon of the postwar world is the illicit relationship of Roger and Jessica” (68). This is in reference to a relationship in the novel that has famously fallen apart by the final act. Pynchon is entirely concerned with his world and the ways the war shaped it and eventually led to a political reaction against it. His message is that the post-war world is an immense and highly precise mechanism for the self-obliteration and death of the individual (Trudell 68). Throughout the novel, Pynchon’s thoughts about these matters seem to peak out
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