Gravity's Rainbow Character 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…
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…show more content…
Before embarking on his Messianic experiments, Bland visits a room full of broken pinball machines that accommodate balls from the planetoid Katspiel. A planetoid’s orbit depends on two main aspects: the planetoid’s velocity and the gravitational force exercised by the sun it circles. Katspiel’s is a “veryvery elliptical orbit—which is to say it passed by Earth only once, a long time ago, […] and nobody knows where Katspiel is now or when, or if, it’ll be back. It’s that familiar division between return and one-shot visitation” (GR 691). Only if gravity is stronger than the energy due to velocity does the planetoid return. N. Katherine Hayles reads the passage as having wider significance: not only the fate of the pinballs depends on gravity but so does the universe. The universe is expanding and will either keep expanding or, if its total mass and the related gravitational forces are big enough, it will return to its original state and be reborn in another Big Bang. For Pynchon’s novel Hayles therefore identifies a double role of the force of gravity that on the one hand does not let things escape from its grasp and on the other hand might enable cosmic return: “If Return is possible, it will be because gravity is pulling the universe together
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