Gravity's Rainbow Title Analysis

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The title Gravity’s Rainbow might seem to forcibly combine a scientific term—gravity—with the poetic image of the rainbow. The relation of the eponymous rainbow to the Rocket, the mathematical formulas used to calculate its parabolic path, and the destruction of its impact are commonly noted,1 while this essay takes the reverse angle and focuses on the more immediately scientific component of the novel’s title and the less readily noted relation of gravity to fiction. Examining the role of fiction in the scientific understanding of gravity will shed more light on the way Gravity’s Rainbow exhibits a two-way exchange between science and literature that the title already suggests: the science and technology connected with the Rocket “invade”…show more content…
Slothrop is precisely not part of the group and their opposition, even if his nickname “Rocketman” or “Rocky” suggests that his place is in the elevator that “rockets” (GR 882) upwards. Rather than acting according to his nickname, Slothrop’s surname invokes the resisting force that is responsible for the fact that passengers end up on the floor when an elevator accelerates: the term ‘sloth’ in “Slothrop” points to the physical concept of inertia. And indeed, the Slothrop family has a tradition of growing inaction that is already implied in their name. The relation to inertia is highlighted by the physical terminology that pervades the passage describing their family history: the first Slothrops are “assimilated in life to the dynamic that surrounded them” (GR 32), they move along with the changing world, and the elements “powering the American mobility” also “claimed the Slothrops, clasped them for good to the country’s fate” (GR 32-33). Yet, the Slothrops “did not prosper,” they do not move on in the world, and later, the family does not even keep up with its dynamic course: “out of some reasoned inertia the Slothrops stayed east” (GR 33, my emphasis). Tyrone Slothrop’s disappearance from the quickly developing post-war world and from the progress of the novel can thus be seen as the culmination of his…show more content…
Before he vanishes from the text, he has given up making any impact on the world or lives around him: “Decisions are never really made—at best they manage to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all-round assholery. […] It does annoy him that he can be so divided, so perfectly unable to come down on one side or another” (GR 802). Since he does not support any side, Slothrop is described as one of “the glozing neuters of the world” (GR 802). Historically, for Puritans neuters are people “that halt betweene two opinions […] the Lord abhorres such lukewarme tame fooles” (Hooker qtd. in Miller 58), and whose “‘[d]eadness of heart’ was the most insupportable curse” (Miller 58). In Puritan terms, not having an opinion and not “com[ing] down on one side or another” is thus a sign of the “[d]ullness, coldness, emptiness [that] were more to be lamented than any specific sin” (Miller 58). Slothrop experiences the same consequences of indetermination: “He is growing less anxious about betraying those who trust him. He feels obligations less immediately. There is, in fact, a general loss of emotion, a numbness he ought to be alarmed at, but can’t quite… Can’t…” (GR 582). Being subject to emotional inertia as well as incapable of taking
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